All too often we are told that our children lag behind schools on the Continent because they have little grasp of foreign languages. The Ecole de Langue is dedicated to doing something about that, through our after school clubs, as an add-on to the language teaching in schools. As a member of the EEA and geographically only 21 miles away from France, it is vital that Britain invests in modern language teaching for children from an early age.
Catching them young
There is no doubt that children in primary schools respond more easily to challenges in language than their older counterparts and are prepared to vocalise in a way that teenagers will not. A child brought up speaking two or more languages will gain enormously in confidence, experience and will ultimately be an asset to the workplace. It is essential that teachers involved at this level should be qualified in teaching a foreign language. The best will have spent part of their courses in the country of their choice, soaking up the culture which they can pass on to their classes. Schools and clubs such as those run by Ecole de Langue benefit enormously by using native speakers as often as possible, because not only do they have the grammar, vocabulary and casual terms at their fingertips, but also their mindset means that they can put the language into clearer context.
The importance of PPA time
Schools realise that good language teaching needs time and preparation because such investment reaps rewards. Since 2005, PPA (planning, preparation and assessment) has been part of the contractual hours that teachers must undertake. We offer PPA cover for teachers but it is the children that benefit by learning a new language.
When it comes to teaching younger children French or any foreign language, this becomes even more important, as it is essential that the child has the basics before moving on to the next level. Teaching a language is much like building a wall – without secure footings, the whole thing will always be a bit wobbly and may fall down all together. This is why so many teenagers fail at languages – not enough preparation and assessment went on in their primary school language lessons, often because the staff were not specifically trained to teach and were only one step ahead of the class.
Teaching languages holistically
A holistic approach is useful at primary and later levels. Even at primary level, before specialisms inevitably become exam-oriented, combination of subjects lends itself well to teaching languages. Every country has its geography, its history, its literature, its music and its customs and all of these and more can be explored through the medium of language. There is no substitute for introducing modern languages to children as early as possible. Truly bilingual children, say with an English father and a French mother, will grow up comfortably conversing and writing in both. Obviously in a school context, even with small infant classes, true bilingual grasp of French is impractical and in the course of a school day there are many other demands on the teacher and child because of the inevitable breadth of the curriculum. After school clubs can help here because children can see the fun aspect of learning a language without thinking it is something they ‘have to do’ as part of the school day.
A skill learned as a small child that lasts for life
When learning a foreign language at school, it can be hard for a child at first and when they begin as eleven year olds or even older it can be a struggle they can never win. But a primary school child will get a grounding in French which, even if they don’t pursue it beyond GCSE level, will stay with them all their lives. This will help in all walks of life and if all a person does with their French is order from a menu or follow a foreign politician on the news without relying on subtitles, it will be a skill which will continue to give a lot of pleasure. With a shrinking world, learning a language can only be a good idea and it has been proven statistically that once a child has mastered a language other than its native tongue, it will find it easier to learn others and also to retain other facts.