LANGUAGES WITHOUT LIMITS
Why teach a second language to learners who are already struggling to master their first? What are the benefits?
WHY TEACH LANGUAGES TO LEARNERS OF ALL ABILITIES?
Much of the material on this site deals with HOW to teach foreign languages to learners to learners with various learning needs, but equally important is WHY? You hear many reasons why alternative courses should be provided:
"He can't use his own language properly yet, so why should he waste time trying to learn another?"
"She hasn't time; there are more important things for her to learn."
"They'll never use it anyway."
So what ARE the benefits of language learning for learners for whom the purpose of such study is not always evident to themsleves, to their parents, and sometimes, even, to their teachers? What is the rationale? What benefits are we claiming to offer? What expectations do we have of learners? And are there any benefits for teachers?
Languages Plus: Making links Describes foreign language learning as the gateway to many other benefits
Why aren't they learning?
Introduction to inclusive practice
BENEFITS FOR LEARNERS
All children need to learn to accept and value people from backgrounds different from their own.
In our work we have met children who saw themselves as 'different' from those around them and who were comforted to learn of a wider world in which people could be different and valued.
Learning another language helps children to become more aware of their own. This awareness can lead to improvements in literacy across the curriculum.
Reseach shows that bilingualism, even partial bilingualism, can have a beneficial affect on brain development.
It's another way for children with delayed skills development to revisit basic concepts and to learn social skills in a way that seems more interesting and grown up.
The experiences that accompany foreign language learning are life-enhancing, but the precise benefits for any specific child may be unpredictable.
Who can say what benefits any child will gain from any particular experience? Who can deny any child the chance to enjoy those benefits, whatever they may be? (See Workshop 3)
So why not at least give it a try? It may be the only chance a child will get, and the decision can be reviewed later. Miss the chance when it comes, and the opporunity is lost, maybe for ever.
For further thoughts on these and other points, see the downloads, below.
BENEFITS FOR TEACHERS
Over the last fifteen years or so we have encountered young people with all sorts of difficulties and disabilities successfully and happily learning a foreign language. Many of them in special schools and units where we might not have expected language learning to be part of the curriculum. We have also encountered young people who were struggling to learn and some – often in mainstream schools – who have become alienated. If some can do it, why can't more be successful?
Teachers sometimes report that they feel reluctant to spend the necessary time with 'bottom sets' because they feel more able learners are losing out. Yet the approaches that work with less able learners also work with more able learners and can often transform the experience of those struggling in the middle. So, by adopting these approaches, teachers find they also become better at meeting the needs of other learners too. Far from having to spend time devising 'special measures for special learners', teachers gain valuable insights into techniques that make language learning seem easier for learners of all levels of ability.
To put it another way:
This website was developed to help teachers to reflect on the issues. touched upon on this page. Briefly, improvements to teaching practice seems to come down to three key points: course composition, teaching approaches and adult expectations*.
Some benefits are not predictable
Foreign Language Learning and Inclusion: Who? Why? What? – and How?
Exceptional withdrawal from modern language learning in mainstream schools
The LangSEN Project
What is language learning FOR?
Three ingredients for success
[Links last checked 9.2.11 unless otherwise indicated.]
Special educational needs in Europe: the teaching and learning of languages: insights and innovation
Times Educational Supplement
[8.6.11] The legal and professional context
[12.4.12] The Association for Language Learning's statement on disapplication
FROM: Foreign languages in Primary and Pre-School Education: Context and Outcomes (Section 5.3.4) (page 108) Christiane Blondin et al. European Union 2007
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CLAIRE KRAMSCH, PROFESSOR OF GERMAN AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE EDUCATION, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY