Activities for foreign language acquisition

Visit this blog for a range of activities to support language acquisition.

http://frenchteachernet.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/50-writing-activities-for-mfl-classroom.html or see summary below. Thanks Steve.

Below is a list of common writing activities in the target language which can be carried out in a classroom or in some cases online. Most of these would be done within a sequence of activities, often following oral activities to improve comprehension, embed vocabulary or syntactic rules, and improve accuracy of speech and writing.

Much writing will be done at home so as to maximise classroom time for listening and oral activity. Writing should nearly always be in the target language, although there will be times when using English makes more sense e.g. when taking notes on a harder spoken or written passage. The teacher will always need to adapt to the needs of the particular class.

  • Copywriting from a book or the board to establish simple spellings
  • Writing down words spelled out orally
  • Writing down answers to oral questions
  • Writing down answers to written questions
  • Filling gaps (with options given or not given)
  • Writing down corrected answers to false statements given orally
  • Writing down corrected answers to false statements written down
  • Writing down the correct one of two or more alternative statements provided orally
  • Writing short phrase statements or just true/false on a mini whiteboard
  • Taking notes to an audio or spoken source
  • Completing an information grid based on a written source
  • Completing an information grid or transcription based on a spoken source
  • Writing sentences or a narrative based on a picture or picture sequence
  • Writing sentences from short notes (e.g. diary entries)
  • Completing a sentence or text with the correct form of a given verb or adjective
  • Transposing sentences or text from one person to another
  • Putting jumbled words into a correct sentence
  • Summarising from an English text
  • Summarising from a target language text
  • Writing down solutions to anagrams (either written ones or ones provided orally)
  • Dictation: transcribing words, phrases, sentences or passages from audio or read by teacher
  • Paired dictation e.g. running dictation”
  • Writing a traditional discursive essay
  • Translating into the target language from a written source
  • Translating into the target language from an oral source
  • Writing a passage from a template
  • Writing lists e.g. shopping lists, desert island game, strip bingo game
  • Word association – teacher gives a word, pupil writes first word to come into head
  • Antonyms – teacher gives a word, pupil writes down opposite meaning
  • Writing short accounts from a given word list. Every word must appear in the account
  • Completing sentence starters from an oral source
  • Completing sentence starters from a written source
  • Starting sentence ends from an oral or written source
  • Noting synonyms or antonyms in a written passage
  • Writing poems or music lyrics
  • Writing definitions of words
  • Completing a crossword or acrostic
  • Making up original sentences to show a grammatical structure
  • Completing a vocabulary list e.g. finding words in a target language text
  • Writing for a purpose e.g letter, news article, job application, obituary, diary
  • Transforming a text message into full sentences (or the reverse)
  • Underlining errors in a transcribed text and inserting the correct word or phrase
  • Writing social network messages to a foreign speaker
  • Writing words as part of a game (e.g. baccalauréat – find a word in each category beginning with a given letter)
  • Writing sentences for a game of “consequences”
  • Writing on the board or with a partner e.g. “Hangman”
  • Code breaking games
  • Writing “never-ending sentences”
  • Writing nonsense or silly sentences

Why modern foreign languages in schools needs an overhaul.

Lovely read via the guardian and a system that  currently works. Something for us all to take note of.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2013/mar/21/overhaul-modern-foreign-languages-teaching-british-schools?CMP=new_54&CMP=

Can you imagine a British school system where language learning is thriving – a real success story? What would be different?

A question any headteacher should be able to answer is this: if you had a completely free choice, what would your school curriculum look like? I’ve explored this with different people and usually they have trouble fitting in all their ideas within the confines of a timetable. However, even with a completely free hand, I find that all too often language learning is regarded as a problem area. There are pockets of excellence but we’re not exactly taking the world by storm as a nation of linguists and, sadly, our current education system isn’t likely to change that any time soon. Why is this?

I think that there are a number of serious difficulties that need to be overcome.

Firstly, we simply don’t give it enough time in the curriculum relative to what is needed.  A standard curriculum will set aside two hours a week, in line with DfE guidance. This just isn’t enough to build the level of retention needed to facilitate an interactive communicative approach and to break down students’ inhibitions with speaking. Sometimes schools offer two languages to able students but often this leads to them feeling mediocre in both languages instead of proficient in one.
Too often standard pedagogical approaches are limiting and formulaic. It is still too common for students to be given a diet of vocabulary-driven rote learning with a bit of grammar tacked on. Too often I’ve seen lessons in very good schools where students might learn a list of colours in isolation but could not say “the sky is blue”. Or they learn lists of rooms, clothes, hobbies or fruit but can’t put a related sentence together with any confidence. Furthermore, six months later, the earlier vocabulary has been forgotten.

Plus, popular culture is almost exclusively Anglo-centric, fuelling a complacent cultural-lingual apathy. Obviously this isn’t the fault of any teacher or any school – but it is the reality we operate in. A meagre two hours per week is no contest for the mighty cultural counter-weight that says “Who cares? Everyone speaks English anyway!” And, of course, Borgen has subtitles!

The system is permeated by a strong, self-fulfilling perception that languages are difficult and, therefore, only really appropriate for higher attainers. Fair enough, being blasted too soon with ‘nominative, dative and accusative,’ terms you don’t even use in English, is likely to be off-putting. However, in the right conditions, people of wide ranging ability ‘pick up’ languages all the time. This might be out of necessity or through immersion but it suggests that it can be done if done properly; it isn’t inherently more difficult to learn a language than maths.

Also, I believe, school leaders lack the will and/or the philosophical commitment required to address these issues. I’m sorry to say this but, for a lot of heads, language learning is not high on their list of priorities. If two hours matches the DfE model, where’s the issue? And in any case, where does the time from? There is a sense that this isn’t our problem and that if we’re churning out another generation of poor or mediocre linguists that is just how it is.

Government policy in this area – such as the with the ham-fisted introduction of the EBacc – is not backed up with any resources. Excellent languages teachers are in short supply and this is far worse at primary level than at secondary. So we have a chicken and egg situation: what comes first? More good languages teachers or more high quality language learners who might become teachers? Enabling policies that help to recruit EU teachers and to provide continued professional development to all MFL teachers are not forthcoming. Half the members of our MFL team are native speakers from Europe and China; one of our cleaners is also our Russian language assistant. The people are out there, but schools need help to recruit and train them.

All these difficulties can seem overwhelming, but instead of giving up, let’s push all of the obstacles aside for a moment. Can we imagine a version of British culture and British school life where all these issues are reversed? Where language learning is thriving; a real success story? Where multi-lingualism is an everyday part of the cultural experience of young people and adults? What would be different?

Firstly, languages would take up a lot more time in the curriculum. For example, in the five years since we’ve devoted four hours per week at KS3 to either French or German, we’ve seen a phenomenal impact: our year 9s are more confident speakers and all-round better linguists than our year 11s ever were before with GCSE results to match. Secondly, MFL lessons would always be characterised by interactive, immersive, communicative approaches where grammar and new vocabulary are seamlessly interwoven and students are empowered with the tools to explore the language by themselves. Finally, schools and the media, supported by politicians and businesses, would celebrate multilingualism to the extent that young people regarded monolingual life as a huge disadvantage and distinctly uncool, and would do all they could to avoid being left out.

If we are ever to reach this point, there is one basic requirement: simply the will to do it.  We can dream of a concerted effort by businesses, politicians and the media to move us forwarded but realistically it will be headteachers and schools who will need to show what can be done. It’s in our hands.

Tom Sherrington is headteacher at King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford.

bilingual students with proficiency in both mother tongue and English outperformed students who were proficient in only one of either mother tongue or English, even when the bilingual students came from less-resourced schools

An interesting report about bilingualism in South Africa. Here are the highlights.

However, “multilingualism as a pervasive feature of the South African identity is something yet to be realised and, although learners are expected to be able to use English as the official language of learning, many are excluded from it”,

“According to the Caps [new curriculum] document, the first additional language is used for certain communicative functions in a society, meaning it is merely a medium of learning and teaching in education,” he said. The home language, on the other hand, is a tool of cultural preservation and articulation.

Ultimately, South Africa should transform through encouraging bilingualism in all levels and spheres of society, Dampier said. “If we are to proclaim a truly multilingual South African identity, we must stop viewing English as a tool for communication in the global village, business and education,” he said. It should rather be seen as an essential part of South African identity.

The Gauteng strategy aims to improve reading and writing and to change teacher practice. But, said Botha, “we have had a plethora of policies and curricula, and yet reading and writing remain a problem”.

She identified three factors that impede progress: the morale of teachers; the lack of teaching and learning programmes for them; and the new curriculum

http://mg.co.za/article/2013-03-22-tongue-tied-on-language-policy

Update on machine translation services

Intel discuss their translation services

Intel doesn’t develop its own machine translation systems. We utilize  commercially available technology or technology  to create  our capability.

They see the following areas developing the use of these machine translation services.

Social Media is going to grow tremendously and machine  translation capability, in terms of supporting a global audience, is going to  become more and more important.

The other area is the phone environment. I see a lot of growing focus in that  area. This is not only from a commercial point of view, but also from the point  of view of government and the military.  A lot of the initial research on  all of this technology has been done by the U.S. military and the intelligence  community. The intelligence community had developed some mobile technology for  the field, where an English-speaking agent can go in and have a conversation  with an Arabic-speaking Iraqi. As long as they kept to some basic, simple  sentences, they could have a real-time conversation in the field with this  technology.

Read more at http://www.business2community.com/mobile-apps/making-a-mobile-translation-app-0396747#qSVG93aDBesgvtzH.99

I think that these systems will be integrated into all areas of translation as time and the development of these apps improves.

How does the bilingual brain store and process two languages? Is it the same or different from how it stores and processes one?

What a lovely start to the week a story that takes me back to my roots.  Weekly readers will know that my interest in bilingualism came when I left Wales due to employment and it was strange that everything was only in 1 langauge in England as well as there were no rugby posts in the fields. Added to the fact that my child was treated as monolingual despite coming directly from a Welsh Medium school and received no support yet if children came into her classroom from abroad there was more than ample provision.

So as you can imagine this story really caught my eye and is interesting as it explores bilingualism a little more to help us all understand the process better.

Recent studies conducted both internationally and here in Wales are showing  that having two languages can impact on the child’s language development,  general abilities, and health and wellbeing in ways that are unique to the  bilingual learner.

In terms of language abilities, some of our most recent research is looking  at the effects of language structure on children’s literacy and self-esteem,  with special focus on those who are learning Welsh and English.

Other studies have looked at young German-Welsh bilinguals’ emergent  grammars, looking for examples of German influence in their Welsh, and Welsh  influence in their German.

Mapping Welsh-English bilinguals’ development of vocabulary, reading and  grammar in Welsh and in English has allowed for a better understanding of the  impact of learning a second language on children’s development of their first  language.

Our results show that learning through the medium of Irish or Welsh at school  has no detrimental effects on children’s development of English.

In fact, the act of switching between two languages and of inhibiting the use  of one language whilst using the other provides the bilingual brain with a  certain level of flexibility that the monolingual brain has to work for in other  ways.

This has led bilinguals to demonstrate superior abilities on general  cognitive tasks that require certain types of processing – an advantage that  translates well into the classroom.

Our studies here in Wales are beginning to show some interesting patterns  that contribute to these findings.

Whether this advantage is present across the life-span for all Welsh-English  bilinguals is yet to be discovered, but should it lead to the delayed onset of  dementia, as demonstrated previously for bilinguals in Canada, the  identification of how, when and where this advantage is present is all the more  worthwhile.

Enlli Thomas is a senior lecturer in Bangor University. Her research looks at  language development and bilingualism in school children in Wales. She can be  contacted at enlli.thomas@bangor.ac.uk

Read more: Wales Online http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/health-news/2012/11/26/speaking-up-for-the-many-benefits-of-being-bilingual-91466-32304491/#ixzz2DJupoGQX

Keep up the research Enlli the more we understand the easier it is to help our students fit into this multilingual world.

The ability to speak Welsh is not a burden. On the contrary, it is an expressway to cognitive development.

Recently a local Welsh paper shared  story that suggests Welsh speakers are reducing in Wales, but this local person shares statistics that Welsh-speaking is increasing and

that being bilingual is not a burden…It’s a doorway to a multilingual world where the advantage of early bilingualism can be translated into skills in a multitude of languages, placing the Welsh workforce at a great advantage in comparison to our monoglot friends.

Do you agree?

http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Bilingualism-opens-doors/story-17194411-detail/story.html

Cutting foreign language opportunities in school and downplaying the importance of proficiency in a foreign language greatly diminishes America’s ability to operate in the modern, fast-paced, globalized world.

I think I have said before that the world is shrinking as people move around.  Today rather than town to town they move country to country and not necessarily to the nearest country to themselves it can often be at the opposite side of the world. This news article discusses one persons feeling about this and the role that languages play in communication.

The statements below can apply to the UK and similar countries as well as the USA

It has been a source of pride and a political point for many that English is the “official” language of the United States and those who come to our borders should learn the language. But as a country that wants to continue to be a world leader, we will need to be very serious about pushing our students to be proficient if not fluent in at least two languages.

It is not un-American to be bilingual and it is not a sign of defeat to have bilingual signs. If anything, it makes us stronger as a nation. After neglecting this issue for generations, it is time to turn our educational system around and place learning a foreign language as one of the most important aspects of an education. Learning a foreign language in the United States needs to move out of the “elective” realm and into the realm of “core subject.

To become truly global citizens then language has to have a place in school curriculums and current discussion should be looking at the sort and types of languages that should be supported in schools.  For me the choice is easy support everyone who arrives with a language other than English to keep their previous languages and learn English. For all learners learn at least one language although from my experience the nearer languages are together the better for the learner to realise that each is not something totally new but  connect with each other.

I was lucky in school to learn French, German and Latin which I loved.  The Latin was great because it helped me understand English more. Recently I have done a lot of work in Italian, with an Italian translator, and can immediately see the benefits of learning both languages together and I think it would make learning a  langauge less scary. We should look globally at the languages most needed by global citizens and then find a way of supporting this via school curriculums.

As Adam Hogue says quite succinctly

America is in constant transition. With higher populations of minority groups becoming more dominant in the American landscape, we as a country should be a land of many national languages, not just one. Schools should be moving towards bilingual education in all subjects and students should be able to pursue an education in a variety of languages. Language has the power to change the perception of a person as well as a nation. This should not be forgotten as America continues to define our place in the global landscape.

As I study Hanguel, I am really trying to make up for lost time. I want to pick up a second language with more proficiency than I have in French, a language in which I can only rattle off a few verbs. It is up to the Millennial generation to place foreign language as the centerpiece of American education in the 21st century. Making that change will change other countries’ perception of America and l make America a better place to conduct business and study. Whether it be Mandarin, Vietnamese, French, Spanish,

Hanguel or Indonesian; a foreign language is key in our rapidly globalizing world.

http://www.policymic.com/mobile/articles/16126/why-cutting-foreign-language-classes-in-schools-would-hurt-future-generations-of-americans

Unless a child understands what’s going on in the classroom, they won’t engage, they won’t attend, and they won’t learn anything.

Interesting news from Australia via Crikeys blog. it discusses the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into language learning in indigenous communities, which of course is really interesting to me.

No English means no future.

We at Fully (sic) completely agree with this opinion: without access to the standard national language, an individual, or more accurately, an entire community of people, will have no prospects beyond the cultural and linguistic borders of their community. The question is how best to ensure that these children learn English. As the report clearly states time and time again, bilingual education, i.e., teaching children for the first few years of primary school in their first language before gradually transitioning into the target language, in this case English, is the proven most effective way to do this.

To see the original http://blogs.crikey.com.au/fullysic/2012/09/18/first-language-education-is-a-matter-of-common-sense/

This is quite a popular story here is another link to a news story  a Report by India Education bureau; Melbourne: A group of indigenous
language researchers from the University of Melbourne is calling on the Federal
Government to implement a proposal to introduce bilingual teaching programs in
some schoolshttp://www.indiaeducationdiary.in/showEE.asp?newsid=15601 “Without a bilingual program, children are being taught in a language they are
not familiar with. This means they often don’t understand what is going on, and
then don’t engage,” she said. This is all too familiar in too many classrooms.

or read further…

As Greg Dickson reported, the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs inquiry into language learning in indigenous communities, titled Our Land Our Languages, was tabled in parliament yesterday. Education was of course, a central theme of the inquiry and is a significant part of the resulting report.

Of the eight terms of reference of the inquiry, three relate to education. They are:

  • The potential benefits of including Indigenous languages in early education
  • Measures to improve education outcomes in those Indigenous communities where English is a second Language
  • The educational and vocational benefits of ensuring English language competency amongst Indigenous communities

The areas that the committee covered included attendance rates in remote schools, the lack of trained indigenous teachers and the inadequate training of non-indigenous teachers given the context, the lack of language testing to establish just what language a child speaks when entering the school system, NAPLAN and its inherent problems for non-English speaking students, and perhaps most importantly, how best to achieve competency in Standard Australian English (SAE). Bilingual education, as you might expect, features heavily in the submissions, the hearings and the report.

Bilingual education is clearly a hotly debated topic and the proponents and opponents are quite categorically divided. Proponents claiming that bilingual education is beneficial to both first language and target language, while opponents claim that teaching children using their first language is deleterious to the acquisition of the target language and that the best way to ensure that all children learn English is to immerse them in English-language classrooms. One commentator, who shall remain nameless, exemplified this position quite concisely yesterday, even before the report was released:

Two problems with [introducing bilingual education], both likely to cripple the future of the children.

First, finding teachers able to teach in indigenous languages will be fearsomely difficult, and likely to lead to language proficiency trumping any real aptitude to teach.

Second, Aboriginal students out bush must learn to speak English fluently if they are to escape their welfare ghettos and find work elsewhere. No other skill is as important to their future. Language immersion at school is critical to that.

The committee found heavily in favour of the proponents of bilingual education as the substantial evidence submitted clearly shows that rather than being deleterious, the use of the child’s first language in early childhood education had widespread benefits. Attendance rates increase when the child’s first language is used in class, children engage in the class for more sustained periods when they can understand what is being said by the teachers, and above all, competence in both languages is increased:

Incorporating Indigenous languages into the education system leads to an improvement in both Standard Australian English and Indigenous languages and can have many cultural, health and wellbeing advantages. (Section 4.158)

The commentator quoted above mentions language immersion at school as the best way to ensure that children learn English. However this is not entirely accurate. Immersion is known to be the best method for learning a language, but immersion requires to leaner to be completely surrounded by speakers of the target language, hence ‘immersion’. One monolingual English teacher in a classroom with thirty or more children speaking a different language is not immersion – not for the children anyway; it would actually be more accurate to describe it as immersion for the teacher. Bilingual, or two-way education, is the tried and tested effective means of teaching children in communities where English is not commonly heard, and ensuring that they learn the standard language.

Recommendation 14 therefore calls for the provision of adequately resourced bilingual education programs in areas where the child’s first language is an indigenous language, whether that language is a traditional language such as Warlpiri or Murrinh Patha, or a contact language such as Kriol, Gurindji Kriol or Light Warlpiri.

A corollary issue is of course the lack of indigenous teachers, and the almost complete lack of adequate training for all teachers in dealing with English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D). This fact is often cited by the opponents of bilingual education – see above – as a key factor against its provision.

The committee agreed that bilingual education would likely fail unless this shortfall was addressed, and so recommends the development of a national framework of flexible and accessible training for Indigenous people to gain limited authority qualifications to teach, and incentives for them to do so (recommendations 16 and 17) and also, that English as an additional language/dialect becomes a compulsory component for all teaching degrees, as well as retrospectively as professional development for all teachers currently working in indigenous communities (recommendations 21 and 22).

Language testing is another crucial area that usually receives little attention. It won’t matter how well-provisioned an education system is, if the school doesn’t know what language a child speaks upon entering the education system, they will not succeed. Often, children who speak a contact language such as Kriol, are often mistaken by teachers and schools as speaking a poor form of English. The committee recommends mandatory first language assessment for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children entering the school system (recommendation 13). For most communities, I would add, most children would speak a similar language/dialect, with only a few minority cases of individuals whose family have moved, for instance.

Another significant section of the Our Land, Our Language report deals with NAPLAN. Of course, national standardised tests in Australia are conducted in English. This is obviously problematic in contexts where the children who undergo the tests do not speak or understand this language, and the test therefore becomes primarily a test in English literacy. This means that the knowledge and skills the students do have, albeit in languages other than English, are invisible to the tests. The result is that otherwise intelligent children are painted as linguistically deficient, and we see statistics such as the following (for the benefit of the reader I have inserted crucial caveats to aid the correct interpretation of the figures in square brackets):

Across Australia in 2004, 83% of Aboriginal students and 93% of students overall achieved the [English] literacy benchmark for year 3.

But in the Northern Territory, only 20% of Aboriginal students achieved the benchmark [for Standard Australian English]. Less than 30% of children tested for [English] literacy in Years 3, 5 and 7 were able to read or write [English] properly leaving them with [English] numeracy and [English] literacy skills of five-year old [Standard Australian English speakers] when they leave school.

NAPLAN testing for these children is not only pointless, but as the committee found it can also be damaging to these students and can lead to disengagement in education:

In addition to being misleading, in painting a negative portrait of learners, assessments that fail to take account of these issues impact negatively on learners’ sense of worth and ongoing engagement with formal education.

ACTA, submission 72, p. 17.

There is however, a strikingly simple way that will go some way towards fixing this. It is something that experts in the field have been saying for some years, and now it’s also the view of the parliamentary committee: the provision of alternative NAPLAN testing for students learning English as an Additional Language or Dialect (recommendation 15). In concert with a supported and well-resourced bilingual education system in the children’s first language, this would mean more accurate representation of the children’s educational development, without it being clouded by difficulties of translation.

Opponents of teaching children in their first language, at least for the first few years of primary school, often argue that:

No English means no future.

We at Fully (sic) completely agree with this opinion: without access to the standard national language, an individual, or more accurately, an entire community of people, will have no prospects beyond the cultural and linguistic borders of their community. The question is how best to ensure that these children learn English. As the report clearly states time and time again, bilingual education, i.e., teaching children for the first few years of primary school in their first language before gradually transitioning into the target language, in this case English, is the proven most effective way to do this.

It isn’t rocket science; it’s just common sense. Unless a child understands what’s going on in the classroom, they won’t engage, they won’t attend, and they won’t learn anything.

As of this morning, The Australian is reporting that both major parties have expressed their acceptance of the report’s findings and support for the recommendations, at least in principle. We ) welcome this, but urge the various governments to immediately enact these 30 recommendations, and allow the system time to function properly, and we as a nation will eventually begin to reap the multifarious benefits of an education system that is accessible to all, and does not discriminate against entire communities whose first language is not English.