The Linguist

The Linguist 57,1 – February/March 2018

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 24 of 35 FEBRUARY/MARCH The Linguist 25 FEATURES semester, so that learning outcomes can be monitored and assessed. Pupils study at home in their spare time, with parents coordinating the learning process and taking on the role of home-based tutor. This is supported by weekly one-to-one teleconferences in which pupils meet online with their designated teachers to discuss the topics being studied and their progress, summarise the learning content and activities from the past week, and provide additional information and support where needed. This gives students the opportunity to ask questions and gain clarification. The teachers are highly experienced and have been trained in delivering web-based content. Due to the high demand for tutoring, supplementary services were recently introduced which enable parents to purchase additional one-to-one tuition. Weekly webinars provide extra help in various subject areas, and are recorded for those who miss the live session. For smaller children, Polonijka provides games and contests to complement the study topics, combining learning with having fun. By using virtual classrooms and teacher interaction, pupils gain some sense of being in a real classroom. While Libratus students were able to gain a state education certificate by successfully completing end-of-year tests, this is no longer possible with Polonijka, following a change in Polish law regarding home schooling. However, regular assessments continue, with exam centres located in Poland and overseas. Online exams are also available for those who are unable to travel to exam centres. Highly rated The programme is highly rated by pupils and their parents, and the young people I spoke to seemed to enjoy the learning experience. They were inspired by the broad range of activities, commenting that the method of learning was "very in" and "cool", allowing them to use modern technology tools such as laptops, web conferences and Skype. Parents told me that they appreciated the step-by-step guides, which help them to lead instruction and monitor progress. Some said the school gave them the opportunity to learn new things, or to refresh their knowledge of subjects they had studied in the past. Teachers were described as friendly and helpful. One mother in Spain reported that her six-year-old had acquired a good grasp of Polish within a few a months of joining the initiative, despite speaking no Polish previously. Other participants noted that their children rapidly learned new vocabulary, and started wanting to read books in Polish and to teach their school friends Polish words. This type of home-schooling is not without its challenges, however. The most common difficulty for both young people and parents is handling the workload, scheduling regular home-learning sessions and incorporating these into the daily routine. "It requires a great amount of self-discipline and commitment," said one interviewee – a view expressed by many. A small number of students drop out each year. The most common reasons cited is that parents do not have time to supervise learning due to work commitments, or that children are not prepared for the workload. Younger children appeared to be more motivated than teenagers, mainly due to the interactive, game-orientated method of learning. Polish seemed to be the most problematic topic, especially in writing. Other school subjects, including biology, maths and geography, were much easier for most to understand as they are also part of the curriculum they follow at school. Polonijka not only teaches children and teenagers how to be self-organised and motivated, but it also keeps the community spirit and culture going, and helps to ensure that the native language is not forgotten. They were inspired by the broad range of activities, commenting that the method of learning was "cool" For writers' biographies for all feature articles, see page 34.

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