This country’s poor reputation for learning additional languages is well known, but now that teaching foreign languages is becoming de rigueur at primary level, (excuse my French)it’s time to acknowledge that, as with most things, how a language is taught to children at a young age will affect their attitude and enthusiasm for the subject for the rest of their lives.
The most exciting thing you can do to help children appreciate a foreign language is to take them the country so they can hear it spoken by native speakers. However, it’s unlikely that the school trip budget will stretch to this, so the next best thing is to provide as much of a flavour of where the language comes from as you possibly can. Taped music and simple storytelling, travel films and books can all compliment language teaching and will help give the children some idea of what the language is all about.
A linked project is another way of saturating the children in the culture, geography and cuisine of the country where the language comes from and will add value to learning the language itself. If you know of someone who is a native speaker, then it would be a good idea to persuade them to come into the class one day to chat to the children and to let your pupils hear the language spoken conversationally.
Many people have memories of being made to learn long lists of French vocabulary by rote, but language teaching has moved on from there and there are plenty of games and projects that can help the acquisition of a foreign language in a more rounded and stimulating way. One easy way of heling children to build on their foreign language vocabulary is to attachpost-it notes with the relevant words written on to classroom objects for your language sessions, or by using more permanent labels if you prefer.
Dos and Don’ts
- Encourage children to find out as much as they can about the country’s language, culture and society.
- Don’t let children detect any lack of enthusiasm or confidence on your part with respect to the language.
- Do use as many props and games as you can to teach the language.
- Don’t pick on individuals’ pronunciation in the class or introduce long memory tests.
- Do keep things low key – so many children are turned off of learning a foreign language, because they find the early stages difficult.