The Linguist

The Linguist 55,3

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 26 of 35 JUNE/JULY 2016 The Linguist 27 OPINION & COMMENT 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 Travelling around the world and visiting many different schools has taught me one important thing: it is time to develop our ways of teaching and to adapt the way we provide knowledge to match the needs of a new generation. New technology is everywhere and fully part of our daily lives, even in less developed areas. Children around the world have access to the web, and are more aware of what is going on worldwide. Traditional ways of teaching are now less suitable, and students' engagement in their learning might be affected. Many of the schools I have visited had an issue in common: behaviour among students is getting worse. How can we tackle this rising challenge? From my recent work in the Seychelles with the Ministry of Education to the work I am doing in Johannesburg, I have noticed a strong desire among teachers for better training. Many schools are getting funding for better resources, including new technology. But teachers lack training on how to use these new tools in an efficient way that can have a real impact on learning. In South Africa, the education system is very inconsistent, and the lack of resources and teacher training in some disadvantaged areas leads to an inequality of opportunity. Should all children not have access to the same standard and quality of teaching? I had the chance to visit some existing examples of where innovative teaching is happening. In Johannesburg, I have come across some inspiring educational environments, such as the low-cost and innovative primary-level Streetlight Schools. It promotes creative and active learning, as well as the use of new technology in teaching. At the same time, it embraces the different cultures and languages of children (there are 11 official languages in South Africa), and gives better hope to the community by providing access to high-quality education. Many of the projects I have visited are run by South Africans who want to empower local people to take control of their own lives, and therefore to make sustainable change in their families and communities. I have been truly impressed by all these young people, full of energy and ideas, who know that their country will only change for the better if they put an emphasis on education and training. Did Mandela himself not say that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world? Why visiting schools around the world shows it's time to change the way we educate young people By far the biggest news story on languages recently was the publication of the latest 'Language Trends' report on the state of language learning in English primary and secondary schools. It attracted more than 50 separate pieces of coverage, in print, online and broadcast media. Although one article dubbed the UK's perceived reluctance to learn foreign languages as 'linguistic Brexit', there has been no coverage, as far as I can see, on the possible impact on the English language if the UK were to leave the EU. With Ireland the only English-speaking country remaining, English would drop from being the 2nd to the 17th most widely spoken mother-tongue in the EU. Euronews highlighted the competition from other languages, reporting on a ruling from the European Ombudsman that Brussels was not discriminating against German by using only English and French on its display boards, as it can use any two widely-spoken languages. On this subject, too, The Express reported sensationally that Turkish was to become an official language of the EU, linking its reporting of language issues, as ever, to its campaign against migrants, especially those from 'Islamic nations'. President Putin provided a telling example of languages and power as a video showing him acting as an impromptu interpreter for an ex-German MP went viral. Following a recent article in The Linguist about the use of multiple languages on Facebook, we heard in Popular Science that the social media platform now offers automatic translations of posts. Its software is able to recognise and adapt to people who post in multiple languages. My favourite piece of language coverage was Marie Claire's beautiful blog about words for @ in different languages: chiocciola ('snail') in Italian, snabel a (elephant trunk 'a') in Danish, 'moon's ear' in Kazakh and 'pickled fish roll' in Slovak. What a shame it would be to cut ourselves off from all that lovely linguistic diversity! Teresa Tinsley is Director of Alcantara Communications; TERESA TINSLEY

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