Monday, April 02, 2012

Language World 2012: Intercultural understanding

“According to the most recent MFL report by OFSTED, intercultural understanding is weak in the majority of schools and it is not necessarily integrated in every lesson”, commented Suzi Bewell, PGCE MFL course leader at York University, during her inspirational workshop on the importance of intercultural understanding.

I really liked Susi’s slant on bringing issues to do with human rights, the right of the child, global justice issues and cultural awareness into the classroom. Having worked up to 10 years in international development and more recently on a temporary assignment with UNICEF, I am keen to explore this area further. I have summarized a number of effective techniques shared by Suzi below:

· “Combine global citizenship with languages”: One strategy for increasing intercultural understanding in the classroom is to combine global citizenship with languages by: teaching language learners the rights of the child (see UNICEF, Trocaire Global Storysacks,); exploring global justice issues in language education; see this fantastic site for accessing 50 plus free resources in French and Spanish.

· “Generate debates on the differences and similarities of different cultures around the world”: using provocative photos (e.g. Peter Menzel’s photos from around the world) to generate discussions on all aspects of cultures, such as what we eat ‘Hungry Planet: What the World Eats’, or what our belongings consist of on ‘Material World: A Global Family Portrait’ and different schools around the world ‘Ecoles du Monde’.

· “Involve your learners in supporting global campaigns”: such as the ‘Send My Friend to School’ campaign that brings together hundreds of thousands of students and teachers in the UK who want the government to keep its promise and make sure that every child can go to school, no matter where they live in the world. Plan International’s gender equality campaign affecting children’s education (in Spanish).

· “Creating partnerships and making connections with schools abroad”: through the use of Skype with classrooms abroad; through finding penpals around the world; sending and receiving postcards from random learners around the globe (see Phipps & Gonzales 2004 book on Modern Languages learning and teaching in an intercultural field).

Finally, some additional useful resources worth looking into:

· Links Into Languages: Ideas, inspiration and materials for language teachers on the Links into Languages website, including a series of resources for teachers of primary, secondary and post-16 languages.

· Mary Glasgow Magazines are a specialist language publisher based in central London. Mary Glasgow Magazines’ team of dedicated writers, editors and designers publish magazines, books, audio and a website aimed at secondary school students learning languages.

· MYLO is a free KS3 and KS4 language learning resource developed for the Department for Education and run by RM Education. It offers a new way to learn French, German, Spanish and Chinese.

· Rachel Hawkes is Director of Language College at Comberton Village College, a comprehensive secondary school in Cambridgeshire, where she has worked since 1999. Her website contains resources, ideas and strategies for promoting, teaching and learning languages. It is hoped that they will support Heads of Languages and teachers of Spanish, German and French.

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