It’s all about methodology

To get Britain’s next generation fluently conversing in a second language we must adapt our methodology of language learning. In 2014 the government outlined a new initiative to achieve just that. Now it is down to Britain’s teachers to deliver this ambition.

 

What’s the big plan?

A reshaping of the modern foreign languages GCSE has resulted in a new set of expectations for students. It is hoped that the new course design will equip students with the ‘ability and ambition to communicate with native speakers in speech and writing’. By developing confidence in the student’s communication it is expected that the student will be able to express ideas spontaneously and fluently in their second language.

It's all about methodology

There isn’t much time.

The government’s ambitions have left teachers with little time to facilitate this transition. Within two years students will be sitting the new language exams. In these new assessments the student will be expected to take part in a spontaneous ten minute conversation.

While this new style of assessment will hopefully result in a higher level of fluency amongst students, it also means that the student will not have due time to prepare a pre-rehearsed monologue. The differences between the necessary skills involved to enable a student to hold a fluent and reciprocal conversation as oppose to memorising a speech are stark. These are skills that will need to be developed in the classroom in good time before the assessments. Specifically, in order to achieve this, the learning attitudes and methodology must be developed.

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The benefits of bilingual education

Feed their brains

 

The benefits of a bilingual education can have benefits for a student’s learning capacity in other subject areas and is even thought to improve the brain’s resilience to diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

The American Psychiatric Association reports that the commendable benefits of language immersion can result in children who have an enhanced ability to process sounds and therefore pay attention in a learning situation. Other benefits include improved cognitive ability, social or emotional skills and educational advancement.

child writing

It’s not that simple

This all sounds great, but is it really that simple? How can teachers, whose abilities and resources are already stretched, realistically put in to practice such a learning atmosphere? One answer of course, is to start small. By working within in your means, subtle changes can be made to the classroom environment to introduce a second language. One such simple method is bilingual word posters in the classroom. Additionally, students could be encouraged to greet one another in both languages, which could result in a gradual cultural change within the classroom environment.

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