Learning in one’s mother tongue promotes a deep conceptual understanding of a subject say Mapelo Tlowane, Abram Mashatole, Sibongile Bopape, Mafeye Morapedi

Todays post looks at four students view of bilingualism on completion of their multilingual degree. Some real food for thought here for all educators. Just tracking their learning helps us understand more what younger children go through when trying to learn another language.

http://mg.co.za/article/2012-10-19-multilingual-degree-opens-up-new-world

These students admit themselves that they were unsure what course to take and it feels as though they choose this more as a default that an active choice but at the end you see they have got so much from it including a clear understanding of their learing and their academic learning side by side.

Many people see the promotion of multilingualism as representing a choice between an African language and English, but the BA contemporary English and multilingual studies degree demonstrates that students need to have a strong foundation for academics in their own language on which competence in an additional language can be confidently built. In other words, both one’s own language and the language of global communication have to be promoted to implement bi- or multilingualism effectively.

In our first year at university we struggled to make sense of lectures in English and the scholarly academic texts. It was difficult to write our own ideas in English and in most cases we would simply cut and paste excerpts from texts for our assignments.

How honest and lets face it what many monolinguists do when being assessed in their own language, but also when used properly a tool to help build on sentence structure, context, word and sentence level syntax and correct sentence structuring with respect to punctuation and formation.

As they progress you can see their minds developing also as they realise the benefits of their mother tongue in relation to their new language learning.

The freedom of our own language
But in the lectures in Sepedi we did not struggle because it was the language that we used every day. We could focus on the meaning and the content and with the freedom to use our own language we gained a deeper understanding of new ideas and concepts of multilingualism.

Then as they progress they eventually meet the current thinking, of all who promote the benefits of bilingualism, multilingualism and the retention of a learners mother tongue, that there is a discourse between the practical application and language learning in schools and the policies made.

We began to understand why such a huge gap existed between our much celebrated language policies and their implementation. But, much more empoweringly, we learned how we, as fluent and committed bilingual people, could play a role in bridging this gap.

We have given presentations at conferences, spoken to young school-leavers and are conducting research into the problems of rural and township schools. We have interviewed advocates of mother tongue-based bilingual education (such as Kathleen Heugh, Nancy Hornberger and the late Neville Alexander) and have come to understand the de-vastating economic effect of English-only or English-mainly education, especially on impoverished communities.

They then discuss that when learnt unconscious transference goes on and thinking about it when I read Welsh signs I just read the Welsh and instantly know what it means there is no back and for translation in my head.

We are finding that competencies learned in one language can be readily and almost unconsciously transferred to another language, provided these competencies are related to higher-order thinking, such as hypothesising, predicting, analysing and synthesising.

They discuss Vygotsky and his view of learning and can ably show their biliteral skills are well-developed and are now making them useful for their working life.

The ideas of Lev Vygotsky, especially the value he attached to mediation and the view that learning (instruction) leads development, permeate all our modules. In one of them, “language and cognition”, we specifically focused on his ideas and conducted research into private speech and fantasy play in our own communities.

We rejoice over the newly acquired biliteracy competencies the degree developed in us. Our external examiners commented on the fact that we write with engagement in both our languages and show deep conceptual understanding. We move across our two worlds with ease and confidence and have experienced our university education as transformative, empowering and very fulfilling.

All four of us have chosen to be researchers in bilingual education. One of us is a tutor in the BA contemporary English and multilingual studies programme and three of us are pursuing master’s degrees in a project the National Research Foundation has funded.

More than that, we feel specially advantaged to have had a unique education that makes us eligible for careers as bilingual teachers, translators, interpreters, liaison officers, researchers, writers, bilingual journalists, communication officers and language specialists.

Good luck to them and I look forward to seeing more of their learning as they follow their bilingual/multilingual journey.

Schools need to operate as Ethical communities

Sir Michael Barber discusses Education at this week Education Summit and says that Schools need to operate as ethical communities and learners need to get on with people from different backgrounds and should be improved so that  global education does not  change at the geographical borders.We need as teachers, schools and educationalist to teach our learners to become World Citizens.

I believe that those of us who are already embracing bilingualism and multilingualism are already embracing this and are already developing ethical communities, but those of us who are using a learners previous experiences to build on then we are further forward than most. What needs to come next is assessment and global assessment so that if you have a grade C for argument in China it means the same in the UK…a really big ask but certainly something to be working towards. He suggests that if we look towards the new video games that is how assessment will need to look in the future as that is how the children are used to learning.

Some EAL educationalist in the UK still want new arrivals to start at their starting point rather than the new arrivals starting point as it is easier for them  What we need are tools to be able to communicate with each other successfully, because in an ideal world no one no matter how clever will ever be able to learn and communicate successfully in 6000 languages, as Lord Green says ‘it is a skilful country that will succeed in the world as large, we need to equip children with life skills’.

E (K+T+L) is the equation that Michael believes everyone in Education should be working towards.  E =  the Ethical Communities, K= knowledge, T=thinking and L=leadership skills

See more of his speech at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3ErTaP8rTA&feature=BFa&list=PL1738A19074D8CDE8&shuffle=584408

and also Jim Wynn from Promethean at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMcVE-u-q4U&feature=BFa&list=PL1738A19074D8CDE8&shuffle=584408

” renewed focus on language skills at school is needed” John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce

Sometimes when engaged purely in Education it is easier to forget the wider world and the wider implications of why were are teaching a particular subject.  I was always aware being a secondary teacher that my students would possibly be working in Design, Programming,Engineering or Architectural type areas, not least because as well as teaching GCSE, A Level there was always NVQ teaching of skills that was part of my teaching role.  However for some they never think beyond the next exam and in primary often thought only about primary tests and not about the whole child and their future prospects.

With that in mind I thought that this information may be of use for those looking outside the box for reasons that languages should be taught and bilingualism and multilingualism should be embraced.

This is current from the Norfolk Chamber of Trade and shares the benefits to businesses about the importance of communicating with exporters in their language. Here is the link to the article:

http://www.norfolkchamber.co.uk/export/export-news/boost-exports-further-improving-businesses-language-skills-and-international

I am pleased that the Primary Languages Classroom Awards supports language developement to enable or children to be able to function on the world’s stage. Below is the article in full.

A survey of over 8,000 businesses released by the British Chambers of Commerce, shows that exporting activity continues to increase. However, the findings also suggest that providing firms with more training in foreign languages, and increasing their exposure to international companies would encourage more business owners to export. Economic growth relies upon British businesses being able to export more, so the British Chambers of Commerce is calling for more support for firms to help them trade internationally.

Language skills are vital to exporting

Knowledge of other languages is an important skill for exporters. 61% of non-exporters that are likely to consider trading internationally consider a lack of language skills as a barrier to doing so.

However, of those business owners that claim some language knowledge, very few can speak well enough to conduct deals in international markets. French is the most commonly spoken language, with 73% of business owners claiming some knowledge. However, only four percent are able to converse fluently enough in French to conduct business deals. This number drops significantly for those languages spoken in the fastest growing markets. In 2012, the IMF projects that the Chinese economy will grow by 9.5%, but just four percent of business owners claim any knowledge of the language, with less than one percent confident they could converse fluently.

Re-establishing foreign languages as core subjects within the UK national curriculum and in workplace training would mean that the next generation of business owners are ‘born global’ with language skills. The BCC is calling for the National Curriculum to be revised so that studying a foreign language is compulsory until AS level. Businesses could also be helped in training staff in new languages, if the government offered additional financial incentives such as tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses that make a significant investment in language training.

Businesses with stronger international connections are more likely to export

Businesses that do export are more likely to have stronger social connections with overseas markets. When asked what led them to export, the top three reasons cited by current exporters were:  collaboration with overseas partners (71%); a chance enquiry from outside the UK (57%); and previous work experience abroad (52%). Those business owners that have lived abroad are more likely to export. 11% of current exporters have lived aboard for five years or more.

The BCC believes that creating opportunities for employees to work in overseas companies could help expose firms to more international opportunities. For example, an international business exchange programme, perhaps modeled on the well-known academic Erasmus scheme would allow employees to complete placements in companies abroad, and bring back their experience to their employer. A scheme that covered BRIC economies, as well as Europe, would mean that businesses could take advantage of fast growing markets as well as the eurozone.

Commenting on the findings of the report, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Exporting is good for Britain, so it is right that we should encourage current and future business owners to develop the necessary skills to trade overseas. We’re encouraged to see the percentage of firms exporting in our survey has increased from 22% in January 2011 to 32% in January 2012. Exports are equivalent to nearly 30% of UK GDP[1], but more can be done to help businesses take the first step to exporting. Encouraging companies to boost foreign language skills with incentives like tax credits is just one way of making sure we continue to export best of British products and services around the world. A renewed focus on language skills at school, as well as helping companies forge new connections overseas, could help ensure that current and future business owners are pre-disposed to thinking internationally.

“We are already the sixth largest trading nation on earth, and the third largest service exporter, but to really secure our future as a leading exporter we need to help companies take advantage of new markets. Giving businesses the opportunity to forge links with international firms, develop employees’ language skills, and providing compulsory education in languages for young people will transform many of the great businesses we have in the UK into success stories overseas.”

 

Do you need 700 reasons why you should learn a language?

For anyone who isn’t sure why you should learn a language or want to inform others of its importance the Centre for Languages, Lingustics and Area Studies or LLAS are building a data base with reasons and supporting information e.g. quotes or literary references to support this.

Find it at www.llas.ac.uk/700reasons

Here are a few.

Reason: 61Language learners can acquire the skills of critical analysis of stereotypes and prejudice in texts they read or seeReference:Byram, M., Gribkova, B., Starkey, H. (2002) Developing the Intercultural Dimension in Language Teaching: A Practical Introduction for Teachers (Strasbourg: Council of Europe)Related Keywords:Critical thinking, Values

Reason: 65High level plurilinguals as a group do better than corresponding monolinguals on tests measuring aspects of intelligence, creativity, divergent thinking, cognitive flexibility etc.Reference:Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2002) Why should linguistic diversity be maintained and supported in Europe? Some arguments (Strasbourg: Council of Europe)Related Keywords:Academic skills, Creativity, Critical thinking, Learning, Multilingualism

Reason: 86One in every five British exporters (Statistics from Metra Martech) knows it is losing overseas business through its inability to overcome language and cultural differencesReference:Stevick, L. (2003) BCC Language Survey: The Impact of Foreign Languages on British Business – Part 1: The Qualitative Results (British Chambers of Commerce, November 2003)Related Keywords:Business

Reason: 87
Most businesses agree that their own business dealings are not significantly affected by lack of language skills, but there is widespread acknowledgment that it would certainly be ‘nice’ to be able to speak foreign languages and would likely be seen as a great compliment to their customers
Reference:
Stevick, L. (2003) BCC Language Survey: The Impact of Foreign Languages on British Business – Part 1: The Qualitative Results (British Chambers of Commerce, November 2003)
Related Keywords:
Business, Values
Reason: 20The ability to speak the language of another community provides an instrument which allows access to their culture; conversely, if other communities can speak your language, they have a powerful tool for accessing your communityReference:Willis, J. (2003) Foreign Language Learning and Technology in England from the 17th to 21st Centuries (a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the examination for PhD in the Department of Education at the University of Surrey)Related Keywords:Culture, Equality (equal opportunities)