The Linguist

The Linguist 53,5

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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20 The Linguist OCTOBER/NOVEMBER FEATURES Can music workshops bring a vital cultural dimension to the languages classroom, asks Isobel Barrett O n a warm June day, an excitable, mixed-attainment Year 8 Spanish class noisily make their way to the PE block, with no idea what lies in store. We are welcomed to Pasaporte Cultural by two Colombian musicians, Mauricio and Camilo, playing traditional, soothing sounds. The academy is in a deprived area of Southeast London and 37% of pupils are eligible for free school meals, compared to 16% nationally. Pupils from low-income backgrounds often do not have the opportunity to come into contact with the cultures of the languages they are studying, so their motivation can, quite understandably, decrease. Few of my pupils ever venture beyond the local neighbourhood. There seems to be a distrust of the 'outside'. I find myself tackling the perception of difference – particularly linguistic difference – as strange, wrong or even threatening, rather than distinctive and worthy of exploration and perseverance. This is not to say that the pupils are not curious. On the contrary, what interests them is how their peers live in other countries, how schools work, what they might eat – in other words, culture. So how is a languages teacher to bring the foreign culture alive in this context? As Pachler, Barnes and Field write, 'while a lot can be achieved in the MFL [modern foreign languages] classroom, cultural awareness is often more meaningfully developed outside'. 1 How to approach this vital aspect is a daily concern and challenge, even for the most creative of teachers. And this is where Pasaporte Cultural can help. Set up in 2014 by music and language teacher Sarah Weiler, the organisation recreates the experience of 'learning through immersion' via music workshops delivered in the target language by native speakers. By providing rich and direct exposure to the target culture, she believes this will have a transformative impact on pupil trajectories. To determine whether the workshops can help learners to become confident and competent linguists with a culturally aware outlook, she launched a pilot project in four schools in South London. It was hoped that using music would also transform the way pupils interact with each another, improving teamwork, creativity and self-confidence. In the classroom The pilot workshop at the Academy where I work kicks off with a brief, lively discussion about Colombia's successes in the World Cup. Simple questioning, such as '¿Dónde está Colombia?', is supported by visuals. Pupils then give their names in the target language to a rhythm clapped by all. Their attention is grabbed, and held. Next comes a performance of traditional Colombian songs – Camilo on the guitar and Mauricio on the quena (traditional Andean flute), their passionate harmonies filling the room and surprising the pupils. The musicians then become the instruments, at the mercy of instructions from the students, who control their output and speed. The effect is twofold: firstly pupils have to communicate in the target language, and secondly they witness that communication having a direct influence on other people. In charge and understood, they get a welcome confidence boost. A drumming session follows, with pupils learning a routine that provides an outlet for noise and physical activity. They then get down to business, their enthusiasm palpable, studying lyrics written especially for the workshop and tailored to the Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14) national curriculum for Spanish. The language used includes opinions; common infinitive verbs such as jugar ('to play'), comer ('to eat') and ir ('to go'); general vocabulary and prepositions, e.g, en el parque; and favourite nouns, including pollo ('chicken'), pizza, chocolate and fútbol. After eliciting the meaning of these lyrics, which – to the excitement and satisfaction of the pupils (and the joy of their teacher) – they are familiar with and able to decipher, they Pasaporte to success 77% of pupils said music made learning Spanish easier; 76% spoke more Spanish than usual

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