The Linguist

The Linguist 55,4

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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28 The Linguist Vol/55 No/4 2016 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 I will spend the last few months of my trip around the world travelling in South America. What a pleasure, but also a challenge, to practise my Spanish again and to immerse myself in another culture, after months spent in Africa. I have been amazed by people's generosity and hospitality. After a few weeks in Argentina, I arrived in Patagonia. What a dream! I lost myself in stunning landscapes and fascinating conversations. People there have a diverse history and diverse origins, creating a very cosmopolitan place. Travelling alone holds many surprises and makes it much easier to meet local people. In southern Chile, I met some interesting people who managed to organise visits to two state schools on Chiloe Island. The enthusiastic curiosity of teachers and students, as well as their informal manners, made me feel at ease. The schools were well equipped and had professional teams for special needs children. Nevertheless, most people in Chile prefer to send their children to private schools. Why? We must look at their history, as many of the changes that occurred while there was a military government still affect the country today. Educational reforms are currently underway, and students are demonstrating for free education for all, as existed before Pinochet's dictatorship. Will the reform valorise state education again? Teachers are eager to see what will happen next, and hope that their hard work will be recognised. One topic of concern for the education experts I met in Chile was shared by teachers in all the countries I visited: teacher training. Many educators in Chile believe that the training is not efficient and that practical work should be emphasised. I agree: we can't aim for high-quality education if teachers don't receive adequate training or consider the profession as a constant changing one that requires reflection and research. Finally, in Puerto Montt I observed a great example of education at a Montessori school – a system that emphasises freedom (within limits), independence and respect for a child's development. The school uses innovative methods to help children to explore their creative sides and work at their own pace. Materials are clearly displayed so students can look for help and work independently. I even saw four-year-olds working by themselves on different tasks, and looking for the resources they needed without asking the teacher for help. An inspiring place. Another continent, another culture, another language, as Muriel ends her sabbatical in Chile The summer weather brought out a nice crop of articles relating to language learning, including commentary from Gideon Rachman in The Financial Times: 'Must Try Harder: Why Britain should embrace foreign languages'; from Hilary French, former president of the Girls' Schools Association in The Telegraph: 'Centuries of Colonialism have made us Lazy'; and from MEP Dan Dalton on Conservative Home: 'To Stay Ahead, Britain Needs to Change its Approach to Language Learning'. All good stuff. There was also coverage of the welcome announcement that new GCSEs and A levels in almost all of the 'lesser taught' languages that were under threat are to be developed after all; of Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw's commentary on languages in primary schools; and of how universities are responding to the decline in students with A level languages. The Telegraph reported – more or less correctly – 'How Spanish is the Only Language Growing in Popularity in English Schools', but I was disappointed that they used an out-of-date and out-of-context quote from yours truly, which gave a misleading impression of my support for all languages. In other news, The Daily Mail reported (twice) on the discovery of a language- learning gene which "accounts for 50% of success in learning a language", and The Telegraph found a useful gadget which claims to fit in your ear and translate foreign languages in real time. We heard that, in Belgium, multilingual robots have been introduced in two hospitals to welcome patients and usher them to the right place, and, in The Times, that learning a second language "can reduce facial tics". The Guardian ran a series of pieces related to the government's decision to cut the £150,000 budget for Cornish, while Angelina Jolie revealed that her six children have all chosen to learn different languages, including Vietnamese, Khmer, German, Arabic, Russian, French and sign language. Teresa Tinsley is Director of Alcantara Communications; TERESA TINSLEY

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