The Linguist

The Linguist 59,1 - February/March 2020

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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@Linguist_CIOL FEBRUARY/MARCH The Linguist 19 AWARDS FOCUS school. The competition was born and, following Hayle Academy's example, we were keen to challenge children to learn more than one language in order to develop the ability to 'learn how to learn languages'. We decided to focus on primary-age children, where the need and opportunities seemed greatest, devising a competition of three rounds with a different language in each round. To give pupils the fun of face-to-face competition, we held regional and national finals, with their rapidly changing scores displayed on a giant leaderboard. The atmosphere was electric! As technology has improved, so has the competition. We moved from CD-Roms to online learning, first on computers and later on tablets. This year things have moved up a gear again and entrants are now able to learn using the uTalk app, which works on all mainstream smartphones, tablets and computers. The app has been a huge improvement because it syncs children's scores between devices and allows them to learn offline if they download the content first. It also means we can give the children involved, disappointed that there wasn't a competition for 14-year-olds. Insights from the classroom Pupils from The Glasgow Academy are learning Zulu this year, while children in Notting Hill, London are learning Māori. Many have chosen Spanish, German or Portuguese, and a few have opted for Hindi, Japanese or Latin. According to Sue Todd, MFL Coordinator at Holy Trinity Rosehill Primary School in Stockton-on-Tees, the contest has had an incredible impact. "The children lower down the school talk about it and say things like they cannot wait to get into Year 5 so they can have a go at the competition. It certainly has had a profound impact on language learning. It has helped us promote the learning of new languages throughout KS1 and 2 [ages 4-11]." Teresa Stark, a teacher at St Helen's College in Uxbridge, agrees. "Each year when the initial language is announced a buzz of excitement goes around the school," she said. "There is no doubt it is a great motivator and has really brought languages to life." Plans for the future The format has proved so successful that we are running a sister Junior Language Challenge in schools in India. There has been interest from countries including Australia, Korea, Greece, Nigeria and Germany, and we are also looking to roll the learning model out to secondary schools. The uTalk JLC has the potential to help lots of children discover their talent for languages. This is a skill that is sorely needed if we want the world to be a friendlier place. As a step in this direction, I hope uTalk will be used to help children in multicultural schools to learn each other's languages. A teacher in East London once told me that he had 22 children in his class and only two of them spoke the same language – and it wasn't English. How great would it be if our children could practise speaking a new language with a classmate who was already fluent in it? The uTalk Junior Language Challenge won the CIOL Threlford Memorial Cup 2019. Visit to find out more or email contest for children more words and phrases to learn. There is now an online leaderboard, so they can see their ranking whenever they log in. We are always listening to advice on how to improve the format and one key change has been to the range of languages. In round one, schools now choose which of uTalk's 140 languages their pupils learn; in round two, everyone will learn French in 2020, and we have lowered the entry bar so more children can benefit. For primary and beyond It is widely believed that the younger the child, the more receptive they are to learning a new language. But with 22,000 primary schools in the UK and limited budgets, recruiting enough modern foreign language (MFL) teachers is hugely challenging. The JLC supports schools by helping pupils learn independently or as a class, with the app projected on a whiteboard. It works for English and non-English speakers alike because it automatically defaults to whatever language is set on a user's device. It is not about fluency; it's about giving children the self-belief that they can learn how to speak and understand any language. After just one term they should have gained a working vocabulary of around 400 words and phrases. One of the early finalists, Aurelia Hibbert, is testament to the long-term benefits of the contest, having passed her language GCSE with an A*. "Your JLC was the reason I realised that I could do well in languages and your discs really showed how easy it could be," she explained. "I was very sad when I could no longer do JLC." Michelle Holmes, mother to competition entrant Charlotte, agrees that the impact reaches beyond the primary experience, and "has really helped Charlotte with languages in general, not just the ones she has learnt via JLC!" Because the app can be used at home, it also inspires the children's families to learn, as prizewinner Riya Sangampalayam's father explained: "Our whole family has embraced the learning challenge, so much so that at some points in the journey, Riya's mother was ahead of Riya at understanding and remembering the language." In Milton Keynes, finalist Eddie Hughes had a similar experience, with his older brother getting n g to win at the semi-final

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