Language Rich Europe

Did you know that…

“A flourishing voluntary “complementary” sector provides opportunities for children to learn languages spoken in their communities. This serves both primary and secondary school children (and earlier). A 2005 survey (Community Language Learning in England, Wales and Scotland, CILT, 2005) found provision in after school and Saturday classes for at least 61 languages. An innovative national programme, Our Languages, ran from 2008-2010 to promote and strengthen this provision and to draw it into contact with mainstream schools.  Under this scheme any language may be offered in primary schools, and some languages of the wider world are taught, usually in areas with large minority populations and/or as part of “language taster” and intercultural awareness programmes.”

The UK launch of Language Rich Europe will take place on 28 June 2012 at the London School of Economics.

Take part in the discussion via our Twitter hashtag for this launch: #LREUK. More details…

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Why Chinese immigrants can struggle with English fluency

“Sometimes, people are just afraid to make mistakes and decide not to speak. We have to learn not to be afraid to embarrass and humiliate ourselves.”

Derwing said English-language training for immigrants must focus more on listening, speaking and pronunciation skills, as well as the so-called soft skill of engaging in casual conversation.

How often have we heard other teachers say this of our children in schools? Zhenyong Li gives a great account of the difficulties he finds particularly with small talk.  I am not sure that the children find some of these problems mainly because they pick up the social play ground talk quite easily, but have a problem with academic language.

The study by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy followed 25 immigrants each from Mandarin and Slavic groups, and assessed their listening and speaking skills at years 1, 2 and 7

There are observations to be thought about here not least why do they struggle so much more than the Slovak group, and what can we as teachers do to improve this.  Also this is surprising as those English speakers learning Mandarin seem to be really well.  A school in Canton Cardiff has achieved the success of many of its students passing exams for  adults to a really high level.

Read the rest here:–why-chinese-immigrants-struggle-with-english-fluency

Zhenyong Li has no trouble speaking English in his engineering jargon, but the Chinese immigrant says it can still be challenging to carry on small talk.

And yet, casual conversation with native speakers around the water cooler is crucial to language development — and social integration — for those whose mother tongue is something else, especially Mandarin.

A new study found the Mandarin-speaking immigrants it tracked had made “no significant progress” in their English accent, fluency and comprehensibility seven years after their arrival here, compared with their Slavic-language (Russian and Ukrainian) speaking counterparts.

The study by the Montreal-based Institute for Research on Public Policy followed 25 immigrants each from Mandarin and Slavic groups, and assessed their listening and speaking skills at years 1, 2 and 7.

“Mandarin-speakers over time did not get much easier to understand when native listeners heard them speak,” said University of Alberta educational psychology professor Tracey Derwing, who co-authored the study with NorQuest College language instructor Erin Waugh.

“They made very little progress in their pronunciation and fluency. They still had many pauses and hesitation.”

Participants in the study — all possessing the same overall language proficiency, well-educated and with similar language training here — were shown pictures and asked to describe them in their own words, while being evaluated by 30 listeners to eliminate any bias or subjectivity.

Researchers also found the Mandarin speakers had had significantly fewer conversations of 10 minutes or more with native and non-native English speakers than did the Slavic participants.

The Mandarin speakers were, as a whole, more reluctant to initiate conversation and appeared to be less aware of current local events than the Slavic speakers.

The Slavic speakers, as a group, the report said, were more assertive and more deliberate in their effort to learn English. They also had an advantage because of interests shared with the larger community (ice hockey, for example), which helped with conversations.

Li, who came here from Shanghai in 1998, said Mainland Chinese learn their English from textbooks through reading and writing, and have no opportunity to drill their listening and speaking skills outside the classroom.

“If you cannot listen or speak proper English, you feel discouraged to participate in a conversation because you are afraid others don’t understand you,” said Li, 52, who has a master’s degree in engineering from the California Institute of Technology and is a manager of a Markham consulting firm.

The Chinese Professionals Association of Canada in Toronto has introduced several programs to address the language gap, which focus on pronunciation and “soft skills” in communication.

“It’s vital to be able to carry small talk,” said its president, Hugh Zhao, who moved here from Shenyang in 1989. “Small talk leads to common understanding and other big topics. It’s not enough just to talk about the weather in Canada.”

Zhao, a computing manager at the University of Toronto, said the Chinese language is very different from the English alphabet, and so are the cultures attached to those language.

Also, silence, which for the Chinese is a virtue reflecting humbleness, is not valued in the West, where people tend to appreciate participation and outspokenness.

“(Mainland) Chinese students are not active in class because, if they understand it, they don’t want to show off. And if they do not understand something, they don’t want to ask and show their ignorance,” Zhao said.

“Sometimes, people are just afraid to make mistakes and decide not to speak. We have to learn not to be afraid to embarrass and humiliate ourselves.”

Derwing said English-language training for immigrants must focus more on listening, speaking and pronunciation skills, as well as the so-called soft skill of engaging in casual conversation.

“Communication is a two-way street. The burden of communication should not be on immigrants’ shoulders only,” she added. “Canadians should not just zone out or shut down when they hear somebody speak with an accent.”

UNESCO advocate bilingual books – Cambodia

It is great to see that The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have developed a bilingual handbook for Cambodian Journalists.

UNESCO felt that the Khmer and English guide-book was important to highlight the general concept of food security and nutrition in simple language for journalist and policy makers to understand.

This is really interesting because when UNESCO has something really important to make sure everyone understands equally they have used both languages which is something I have always advocated whilst teaching particularly in relation to new arrivals, English as Additional Learners and their parents in schools, or at the various housing or benefits offices or new arrival information places.

The rest of the article can be seen below:

PHNOM PENH, June 25 (Bernama) — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has released a bilingual handbook teaching Cambodian journalists how to report news relevant to food security and nutrition.
Xinhua news agency reports the Khmer and English guidebook highlights the general concept of food security and nutrition in simple language for journalists and policy makers to understand.
“The handbook will serve as an essential tool to help guide and enhance the journalists’ knowledge for accurate reporting and advocating issues such as child mortality, children and women’s health, nutrition and food security,” said Cambodia UNESCO director Anne Lemaistre at the book’s launching.
“It will allow policy makers to access a wide variety of resources and information to guide them on key issues and to lead them to important information sources,” Lemaistre said.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said the handbook will contribute towards helping Cambodia achieve the Millennium Development Goals in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

Advice for my first MFL lesson as an NQT – UK

I saw this and wondered if anyone had any ideas to suggest.

Hi All,  I am starting my NQT job next week and am looking for some advice, particularly regarding my introductory lesson with each class. I definitely want to do something on classroom rules. I just wondered if anybody has done this successfully before and how you went about it? Did you use the TL throughout or stay in English?  Thanks for your help, H

Reply at:

Personally I think with all first lessons you should establish your expectations and where possible involve them in the rule setting.  However know the schools rules otherwise  they could try to trip you up.

It’s also good to let them know why they have to be followed i.e. they want everyone to listen to them when it is their turn etc. Also what the sanctions are if they are not followed, again quote school procedure and be prepared to follow through anything you say. Your confidence and tone will let them know that you mean it.

Remember that it also fine to put it on the lesson plan and take the time it needs to establish your rules. After this quickly praise anyone following through the right way usually 5 praises to a negative works.

Advantages of a bilingual education – Switzerland

Below is a really good article that reads easily and discusses not only the educational benefits of bilingualism but the social advantages which I have witnessed daily and I can be seen in this extract below but the whole article I would recommend to anyone looking for a one stop show as a starting point to be able to explain the benefits of bilingualism.

Social advantages Bilingual children also gain huge social advantages over their monolingual peers. These advantages are variously cultural, communication and personal. Balanced bilinguals are more comfortable in a multi-cultural environment and are more tolerant and open-minded towards people, cultures and languages. The child grows into an adult who more easily tolerates change, can instinctively attune speaking to the needs of the listener (language and vocabulary) and enjoys the confidence of being able to move freely in multiple environments.

The rest of the article can be found here bear in mind that they are selling themselves but nonetheless it makes sense:

Advantages of a bilingual education

Parents often worry that bringing up their children bilingual will lead them to fall behind in their first language. But Pam Bremer, founder of Obersee Bilingual School, explains that bilingualism not only makes children better linguists – it sharpens their brains in other ways too.

Choosing a school for your children is hard wherever you are. When you are an expat, the choice is even harder. It’s one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your children, yet it can be hard to evaluate the different options available.
Expat parents looking for schools in Switzerland are often seeking a balance between normal Swiss schools and international schools. They want to give their children the chance to integrate into the community, without limiting their future educational choices. They have heard about the advantages that a bilingual education gives children, but wonder whether there might be drawbacks too.

Bilingual education: brain insurance In fact, there is ample research to show that bilingualism gives children social, linguistic and cognitive advantages over their peers. Bilingual children out-perform their monolingual peers in study after study. Research has also shown that the advantages last well into old age – elderly bilinguals perform as well as younger monolinguals. In other words, bilingualism is a kind of brain insurance, keeping your mind sharp well into old age, as presented in an article that recently appeared in the New York Times.
Balanced bilinguals better comprehend the complexities of language and are more adept at correcting errors in language meaning and grammar. They think more creatively than their monolingual peers and understand the subtle meanings of words. They also demonstrate a more highly developed ability to vary word usage based on the needs of the listener.
Parents sometimes worry that bringing up their children as bilingual will mean that they never really master either language – but these concerns are unfounded. In fact, research shows that children can learn to read in two languages at the same time, to the benefit of performance in both languages. Bilingually educated children are shown to read at a higher level than children educated in only language. Crucial to achieving this is ensuring that the two languages of instruction share the same system – alphabetic or pictorial.
But bilingualism does more than refine children’s linguistic abilities – it also improves their cognitive abilities. In other words, it makes them brainier. The brains of balanced bilingual children have been challenged by the acquisition of two languages to develop simultaneous connections between multiple representations of items, resulting in superior cognitive skills to those of monolinguals. In addition to a natural ability to understand the concept of numbers earlier in age, extensive studies have shown that they are more highly skilled in visual problem solving and analytical tests. 

Social advantages Bilingual children also gain huge social advantages over their monolingual peers. These advantages are variously cultural, communication and personal. Balanced bilinguals are more comfortable in a multi-cultural environment and are more tolerant and open-minded towards people, cultures and languages. The child grows into an adult who more easily tolerates change, can instinctively attune speaking to the needs of the listener (language and vocabulary) and enjoys the confidence of being able to move freely in multiple environments. 

What is bilingualism? True bilingualism can’t be taught; it must be experienced. Successful true bilingualism requires that both languages themselves be the medium of instruction, not just the subject of instruction. Balanced bilinguals are those who have reached a fluent state of performance in both languages. Only at this point do the advantages truly being to be measured. An education that is 90% monolingual with a few hours a week of instruction in another language will not produce the same results.
Things to think about: An early start – There is no “critical period” for language acquisition, as had been long believed, but there is an advantageous period for learning a new language. It is easier and quicker for a three year old to reach an age appropriate command of a new language than it is for a 13 year old. Research and experience have shown that children can enter a bilingual program any time before the age of 9 or 10 and still gain the same benefits as those who started earlier.

Age-appropriate language acquisition – You must allow two years to acquire age appropriate language skills when starting at a young age. A teenager will require 3-5 years to acquire age-appropriate language skills. Basic social competence comes quickly, but reaching native skill levels in comprehension, command of vocabulary and expression, takes an increasing amount of time the later a child enters bilingual education.

Language mixing – Very young bilingual children often mix their languages. This is perfectly normal and does not indicate language confusion. Nor does it indicate that the “primary” language is at a disadvantage. In fact, adult bilinguals also mix languages frequently – using the words that best fit the situation at hand as well as the communication needs of the listener. The child who mixes languages early during the process of becoming bilingual is using words that come easiest to his or her mind, but without regard for the limitations of the listener. Assuming that parents and teachers separate the languages, the child will learn to separate the languages and modify speech according to the communication needs of each person and situation.

Curriculum – This varies between schools, but most offer a combined local and international curriculum. Parents should look for a school which will prepare their child to enter Swiss, bilingual or international secondary schools.

Current language – ‘But my child is not already bilingual’: this is a concern expressed by many parents. In fact, most bilingual schools will take monolingual children up until primary grade 3, arranging extra support so that the children can catch up in the new language.

Too much for the child? – A bilingual education provides an interesting and valuable challenge for any child who shows normal cognitive and language development. A bilingual program is often the perfect choice for the gifted child, who might become bored in a monolingual program.

How does bilingual education work? The best chance for success The best method of bilingual education “immerses” children without “submersing” them. Typical rules specify the use of many contextual clues (pictures, body language), separation of languages, and excellent coordination and planning among teachers that includes careful repetition of key vocabulary in both languages. For new children starting such a program at a later stage in their school careers, intensive tutoring is required in order to give the child a jump-start in the new language, and rigorous testing in the new language must be delayed for some time to allow the child a chance to catch up with the others (which he or she will certainly do). 

Individualized learning Many private bilingual schools give children the chance to learn at an earlier age, and at a pace that suits their individual interests, ensuring that the love of learning thrives throughout their school career. 

Gradual language independence In pre-kindergarten the bilingual experience usually includes near simultaneous translation of information and instruction, along with many songs, pictures, stories and games in both languages. Children may speak either language, but are encouraged to try new words and phrases. Songs, stories, games, dance, music and theater play an important role in the pre-kindergarten experience.
In kindergarten and primary grades, the separation between the languages increases. A common practice is to conduct the first half of the week in German and the second half in English. The children are carefully introduced to new vocabulary in both languages in such a way that they can absorb information easily. Songs, stories games, dance, music and theatre play an important role in kindergarten.
At upper school levels, the language of instruction varies by subject matter and can change from year to year. For example mathematics might be taught in English one year and in German the following year.

Transfer at anytime Studies and experience show that children leaving a bilingual school are able to transfer to other schools with no more difficulty than would normally be encountered when changing schools, countries, cantons or school systems.

1 in 6 children do not speak English at home – UK

Todays news in the Daily Mail

More than one million children speak English as a second language, official figures reveal.

A record one in six pupils at primary schools and one in eight at secondary don’t speak English at home.

The number of non-native speakers topped one million for the first time, rising from 957,490 last year.

with a heading

English a second language to one million pupils as record one in six children don’t speak it at home by Laura Clark

The article goes on to suggest that it costs an extra 600% to educate these children, yet they are overtaking ordinary children in exam results. There will be many negative comments surrounding this I think but we should look at whether there is any correlation between the added cost, individual support and their achievement because there is no doubt that they are closing the gap. If so should we be looking at our class sizes? Just posing the question what do you think?

Read more:

The figures were released as part of an official census of schools taken in January. At some schools, dozens of different languages are spoken.

A separate analysis released earlier this year showed how children who speak English as their first language are now a minority in more than 1,600 English schools.

The number of schools where fewer than half of children are native speakers has virtually doubled in 15 years. Pupils with English as their main language now form a minority in one in 13 schools – up from one in 25 in 1997

The cost of educating a child with English as an additional language has been estimated at up to £30,000-a-year, against around £5,000-a-year for other pupils.

Punjabi is the most commonly spoken language among pupils who do not have English as a first language. Other widely spoken languages are Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Somali, Polish, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish and Tamil.

There are also sizable proportions of pupils who speak Shqip from Albania and Kosovo, Igbo from parts of Nigeria, Luganda from Uganda, Sinhala from Sri Lanka and Amharic from Ethiopia.

GCSE results published earlier this year showed how pupils whose first language is not English are closing the attainment gap with English-speaking youngsters. And they were also more likely to make fast progress in the three Rs between the ages of 11 and 16.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘English language skills are vitally important to ensure all individuals and communities can fully integrate into society. We provide schools with funding and teaching materials to help them support children with English as an additional language right through to secondary education.’

The council areas with the largest number of schools where English-at-home speakers are a minority include Bradford with 59, Manchester with 35, Birmingham with 117, Leicester with 40, Luton with 22 and Slough with 19.

In London, the highest numbers are in Newham with 79, Tower Hamlets with 70, Brent with 57, and Ealing with 55.

There are also minority English-speaking schools in towns and cities including Brighton, Milton Keynes, Southampton, Scunthorpe, Skipton and Windsor and Maidenhead.

GCSE results published earlier this year showed how pupils whose first language is not English are closing the attainment gap with English-speaking youngsters.

They are actually outperforming first-language speakers on one measure for the first time.

Some 80.8 per cent of second-language English speakers achieved five good GCSEs or equivalent

Olympics – Bilingual Countries Information

Just a quick post to say if you are thinking of doing something really radical and bilingual what about sign language? The Primary sign team that I wrote about recently have some free olympic countries information with really easy signs to learn.  Who is up for the challenge?

Find it here at :

Key Principles and Key Stage Review – The New Curriculum UK

This is a summary of one piece of the framework for the National Curriculum published this week.  I have tried to make it more understandable and less wordy and plan to create bit sized articles and pull out relevant aspects over the next few blog entries.

Here are the key principles.

  • The New Curriculum will be developed in line with freedom, responsibility and fairness
  • Schools to be given greater autonomy with the government prescribing the essential knowledge to be provided by schools but allowing schools to serve its pupils better by tailoring it to fit its pupils needs and also  teaching in the most effective way
  • The curriculum should use the best collective knowledge we have re. the best way to teach to ensure the best learning. I am sure that this is what is already happening in most parts of the country.
  • Schools must take note of vulnerable groups and ensure they move confidently and successfully through their education. –  I suspect that this is where EAL will fit as well as SEND (Special Needs and Disabilities).
  • Schools need to distinguish between The National Curriculum and The Wider School Curriculum  (the whole curriculum as experienced by pupils in that school) – Schools will need document this to ensure they are fulfilling the key principles for governors, parents and OFSTED.
  • The National Curriculum will continue to be a statutory requirement for maintained school but also be used as the benchmark for excellence across all schools.

One other thing to note is their interest in the Key Stages and they suggest that :

I think this will be debated in all schools at senior level at the very least, despite some schools already having moved the start of GCSE’s into Year 9 for it to happen on a permanent basis there will be staff implications, possible timetable restrictions,  and questions re the suitability for the students involved…i.e. is it really best practice for them to achieve their potential? In primary I can foresee two years of focussed Assessment coaching depending on the implications of the Assessment criteria and expected outcomes again is that really the best practice we can give to our children?  We must all make sure that at the end of every policy, every change to the curriculum and every piece of assessed work there is a child and sometimes as young as 7. So our question should be Is this the best for our children..if it isn’t we must find a way to give the children the best but also achieve assessment success and each individual reaching their personal potential.

A tall order maybe but one that with collaboration we can achieve.


Return of the ‘O’ level ?

Just as we are getting to the end of term … lets put everything in turmoil.


Education Secretary Michael Gove Gove plans to scrap dumbed-down GCSEs and National Curriculum in the biggest revolution in education for 30 years.

Leaked documents seen by the Daily Mail suggest that the most radical shake up in school examinations are being planned.

The report in the Mail states that “Education Secretary Michael Gove has drawn up a blueprint which would tear up the current exam system as well as abolishing the National Curriculum.

Under revolutionary plans Gove intends to

  • GCSEs will ‘disappear’ from schools within the next few years
  • The National Curriculum in secondary schools will be abolished
  • The requirement that pupils obtain five good GCSEs graded A* to C will be scrapped
  • Less intelligent pupils will sit simpler exams, similar to the old CSEs
  • O-level pupils will sit the same gold standard paper nationwide from a single exam board

It is planned to have a 12 week consultancy…

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Ukraine v England Euro 2012

Well tonight is  a great time to write this blog.  I couldn’t believe it when I opened the door and the mail carrier had brought me a parcel from the Ukraine.  You may remember I wrote on my blog about my friend  Yuri during the Eurovision song contest, well he surprised me by sending me a present to commemorate Euro 2012.

He sent me a fridge magnet which sits proudly on my fridge, and two plates one blue and the other purple.  Can you see them in the picture below now sitting proudly on my mantlepiece over the fire. I cannot thank him enough. It leaves me with a  bit of a problem though …. I don’t know who to support tonight now so Good Luck to both teams.