The Linguist

The Linguist 57,4 - August/September 2018

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 29 of 35 30 The Linguist Vol/57 No/4 2018 OPINION & COMMENT Email with your views I was interested to read about the health benefits of bilingualism ('Languages for Health', TL57,2). Charmian Kenner (Becoming Biliterate, 2004) stresses the flexibility of children with more than one language, who "switch between languages within conversations to maximise potential". As well as greater richness of meaning and language fluency, this leads to "creative, imaginative, open-ended and free-thinking skills". Bilingual schools are growing in the UK, as can be seen in the increasing number of French schools in London, such as the one where I work, that have a bilingual programme: half the day taught in French and half in English. In this setting, the relevance of learning the other language is apparent to all students; this promotes a favourable attitude and increases motivation. At least half the day is in the child's mother tongue – a familiar cultural space – so they feel more secure. It is natural to identify with one language group more than another, and for children to use their linguistic resources to mark their identity; the more the identity is linked to the mother-tongue culture, the stronger the accent in the second language. The English teacher often speaks little or no French, and the speaking of French in English lessons is forbidden. However, for beginners, In 2011, the Scottish government pledged to follow the European Union model of 1+2 languages, where every child learns two languages in addition to their mother tongue (see TL56,5 and TL57,4). As one teacher at a bilingual school told me, the children may seem slower at the beginning but they catch up and have their own style of language due to having two languages in constant use. According to Li Wei, bilingual children "understand the internal structures and subtleties of different languages. By having an automatic point of comparison, multilingual children automatically understand the universals of languages and have a high level of language awareness." That is something all international schools aspire to. Anita Bamberger ACIL In praise of bilingual schools Star letter This issue's Star Letter writer wins the new bluffing game Flummoxed, where players take it in turns to invent definitions for foreign-language words and identify the correct ones. For your chance to win, share your views via Visit for details. the use of French can be helpful in an otherwise alienating environment. When a student is upset or anxious – whenever there is urgency or intense feeling – the need to communicate in the easiest form becomes apparent, and they revert to the mother tongue. Children are very supportive of their friends and frequently interpret for them. In relaxed settings, such as lunchtime, most students use French as the majority language. When I asked students, they said they preferred a bilingual school to a monolingual one, as they liked learning two languages and were not fazed by the challenges. There is inevitable interference from the dominant language, but because there is a consistent point of reference, it is easier to work on differences and similarities to facilitate the learning of syntax and grammatical structures. The challenges of a bilingual programme can be stressful for teachers, especially when they are new, as children follow the French programme for some things and the English one for others. Bilingual teachers have an understanding of students' syntax and grammar in both languages, and can support them by identifying and predicting 'problem' areas. Even monolingual speakers have various levels of competence and do not know every word in their language. STAR LETTER © SHUTTERSTOCK

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