LANGUAGES WITHOUT LIMITS
Foreign language learning has a major contribution to make to the wider curriculum of all pupils, but especially for those with physical or learning difficulties for whom the subject may be their only window onto the wider world.
A constant theme of this website is the importance – for all learners, but more particularly for learners whose lives are limited by their condition or circumstances – of using the foreign language learning programme to broaden horizons: to help learners to develop a clear sense of their own identity, of their place as members of local communities, and of the importance of communication as a means of affirming their sense of self. Learning about other communities and other ways of communicating is an essential part of this process.
It is no longer sufficient in the modern world to study languages per se. Indeed, the study of languages might almost be seen as irrelevant if the programme of study does not also contribute substantially to a wider agenda that includes, for example, the personal and social development of the individual learner, career potential, and national and international priorities.
The idea of Modern Foreign Language learning taking place in an enclosed environment, with no links beyond the classroom door, is unthinkable - this is, after all a subject essentially concerned with the wider world - yet potential links with students' personal worlds are sometimes overlooked.
This may be because we tend to think of languages as foreign and alien - something over there, not right here. The result may be to distance learners from the subject to the extent that they find it difficult to comprehend its relevance for them. Any measures, even local ones, that bring the outside world into the Modern Languages classroom or take the classroom out into the world, help to counteract the feeling of detachment and contribute to a sense of relevance for the learner.
One way of expanding this aspect of the curriculum is to think in terms of a series of ever-increasing circles at whose centre is the student and whose outer limit is of global proportions:
Language learning is a powerful tool for building tolerant, peaceful and inclusive multicultural societies. The experience of learning a new language helps to develop openness to other cultures and acceptance of different ways if life and beliefs. It raises awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and promotes tolerance of people with a different lifestyle.
The curriculum must be inclusive, be a stimulus for personal achievement and, through the broadening experience of the world, be an encouragement towards informed and responsible citizenship.
With this model in mind, curricular activities can range from pinning up work or posters in the corridor outside the foreign language classroom to taking part in local community activities or an expedition to assist a third world country.
ENHANCING THE CURRICULUM
So we need now to think in terms of Languages Plus, and the 'plus' – the enhancement – can be one or more of a number of things. We need to select materials and approaches on the grounds of what they can contribute to personal, national and/or international priorities via their content and/or their methodology - preferably both.
We can do this by, for example,:
• expanding and enriching traditional topics so that they incorporate an additional element that relates the language learned to the real world;
• ensuring that language learning is presented in such a way that it is relevant for learners now, not just in a hypothetical future.
• selecting new cultural and cross-cultural topics for language study, so that texts relate to issues of local, national and international interest; and encouraging learners to form and express views on these;
• aligning topics with learners' personal interests and aspirations, and giving learners a say in determining content and approach;
• managing learning (whatever the topic) in active and interactive ways that foster personal, social and vocational skills as well as language skills;
• making explicit the connection between communication and community;
• carefully fostering the use of the language for classroom interactions, between teacher and learners;
• harnessing new communications technology to foster communicative language skills within a global communicative context;
• dealing with topics related to rights, responsibilities and good citizenship in local, European and global contexts;
• setting up activities that develop understanding and acceptance of diversity, and challenge stereotypes;
As we develop and enhance the language curriculum in these and other ways, we need be aware that, if Modern Languages is to be the gateway to all these benefits, we must ensure that the language work we do, as well as these 'cultural' changes we are making, will be accessible to all learners; to those experiencing individual difficulties in learning as well as to those who require more challenging work.
Foreign Language Learning and Inclusion: Who? Why? What? – and How?
Modern Languages for All?
Three ingredients for success
What is language learning really for?
[Links last checked 25.2.11 unless otherwise indicated]
Improving the quality of language learning in schools: Approaches to teaching and learning
ĦA Mi Me Importa! Making Language Learning Relevant to the Weans
MFL, personal devlopment and Every Child Matters
Developing personal, learning and thinking skills in MFL
LEARNING THROUGH LANGUAGES: Promoting inclusive, plurilingual and intercultural education