The Linguist

The Linguist 55,2

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 28 of 35 APRIL/MAY 2016 The Linguist 29 OPINION & COMMENT Recycling an earlier story about how job ads that require languages, including Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian, "exclude Britons", The Express reported triumphantly that the Department for Work and Pensions had agreed to look into its complaint – a story now linked explicitly to its campaign for 'Brexit'. The paper also reported on a 28-year-old's "sadistic experience" at the hands of the Columbian police, who arrested him on suspicion of drug dealing. The Brit "felt helpless because of the huge language barrier and couldn't argue with police that he was completely innocent". It was reported that the officers "spoke only Spanish" and had to communicate with him via Google Translate. As if on cue, Google Translate itself announced that a further 13 languages, including Hawaiian, Kyrgyz and Xhosa, had been added to its repertoire, bringing the total to 103. Meanwhile in the US, Yahoo has been championing a campaign to get computer coding taught in schools as an alternative to foreign languages. This sparked an excellent piece on Vox setting out why natural languages are different – and much more challenging to learn – than constructed languages. The BBC reported on the success of Scotland's new language education policy in raising the proportion of pupils learning a foreign language from the beginning of primary school to two-thirds. However, The Scottish Times cited an academic study warning of plummeting numbers taking the new National exams in languages. Positive stories about languages have included the news that "making new friends who speak a different language" is the seventh most desirable travel experience for children (The Mirror), and that "Rare languages should be preserved to benefit the brain" – a piece of research on the cognitive benefits of language learning, reported by the Mail, Scotsman and Guardian, among others. Teresa Tinsley is Director of Alcantara Communications; TERESA TINSLEY Muriel Huet is taking a one-year sabbatical from her role as MFL teacher at a London secondary school. TL MURIEL HUET Teacher on tour As Ignacio Estrada said, "if a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn". This is very relevant to my experiences this year. I constantly have to adapt, depending on the country I am in and the people I am teaching. It is that strange mix of respecting the way students are used to being taught and slowly pushing their boundaries so they can discover new things. In Cambodia, I taught English to children aged 2-12 at the orphanage of Wat Opot. As a secondary school teacher, I was already out of my comfort zone, but I persisted in doing creative activities using videos, competitions, games and group work. At the start, it was a mess. But what a nice feeling to see children, used to very traditional teaching methods, starting to learn by doing and playing. I was in Kampala for the Uganda general election and, as the holidays had been extended for political reasons, I mainly worked with the teachers. Although education is free, many families cannot send their children to school as they don't have money for uniforms or equipment. I visited Hands for Hope, an organisation giving an education to children living in one of the capital's biggest slums. I also worked for a month at a secondary school in Entebbe that has been put under UK management with the aim of working collaboratively to improve the school. The leadership team is a mix of Ugandans and 'Mzungus' ('white people'). My task was to work with teachers of English to design a literacy programme for students with a low level of English. It was fascinating to see the importance of English (the main language of instruction) in the education system, but also the children's relationship with their own local languages. In order to write a literacy programme, you have to take the linguistic and cultural context into account, and use teaching methods that will suit children's needs. The teachers I worked with were excited to try out new approaches. In the Seychelles, a similar debate is taking place. The country has three main languages: Creole, English and French. Working with the Ministry of Education, I have observed lessons in different schools and at different levels. Creole is the students' mother tongue, and it seems that many find it challenging to be taught in English, which is used to teach the curriculum from Year 3. What is the solution? Should both English and local languages be used in the classroom from the start? The debate is open. Our columnist discusses approaches to education in African countries with many native languages

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