Taking ownership and control over language learning

I’m always somewhat surprised at how many parents assume that the school will take care of all aspects of their children’s education. Perhaps I’ve been around the block (or world) too long to take anything for granted, or maybe I care too much or have made too many mistakes along the way.  Or it could be that I’m at the point where a “little knowledge is a dangerous thing” (Alexander Pope, 1709).

Anyway, here are a couple of images from the parent’s forum I put together with our self-taught language coordinator (the whole presentation can be found here).   The main points I’d like to make are

  • Language pathways need to be planned consciously and not left to chance
  • you only have control over what and how much language your child is exposed to for a brief period of time – what then?
  • your language community is no longer bounded geographically
  • you have many community allies where you can exchange best practise irrespective of the language
  • Digital tools are not the enemy – you can use them to create a language immersion environment

 Avoid type 1 at all costs by investing in your mother tongue and working towards abstract language in both languages. Types 2 & 3 are OK, and result if you have up to 20% input in mother tongue. If you want types 4-6, ensure at least 30% input in the language that is not taught  / dominant at school. Work with the teachers on this. Can your child read 1:3 books in their mother tongue (MT)? Are their pieces of work they can research in their MT? Work with the system and enhance it.  There is no “better” type of bilingualism after 4, it’s semantics and circumstance.

 Think about what type of family you are and what roles you assign to your language and to English.

Do a language audit for your family so you have a realistic idea of what you can do to ensure success. Look at all aspects that contribute to success including the child, family, school and community. Make some strategic choices and frame your goals and priorities as a result of this.  You can see my audit here.

Getting back to the question of control and ownership: 

Personal Learning Environment (PLE)

Use some digital tools to create your personal learning environment. You can ensure input and output for listening, speaking reading and writing. Do you know what the current best books are for your child right now? Does your language have literary prizes for picture books and young adult books? Are your children reading them? Are they keeping up to date with radio programs, TV shows? Movies?  

Personal Learning Network (PLN)

Which people and organisations are in your network? Both physical and virtual proximity can be created. Your students can find people to add to their community, from their family, peers, older or younger students in the same country or other countries. In their school and in other schools. 

Community of Practise (COP)

This is where you find out what is best practise and what other people are doing. The “experts” or people who may have experience in one or more aspects of learning. They may be people with children learning the same language, or other parents struggling with the same socio-emotional issues with priority setting and time and logistical constraints. 

There are a number of language communities online – you just need to find their champions and tap into their resources. And then it’s a question of sharing and community building.
On twitter try: #langchat (WL teachers) #frimm (French teachers)#ClavEd #WLteach #flteach

The two sites below have some great resources:

Digital Tools

Just because a tool was created in English doesn’t mean it’s exclusively for English use. The whole point of Web 2.0 is you can create and curate to suit your need in ANY language.   Don’t complain about a lack of (age appropriate) resources – create your own. Borrow and extrapolate from material in other languages. Share and share and share. This is not an exhaustive list, just a sampling.

Flipboard can be used to curate any digital material on any topic in any language. This one is specifically on bilingualism, mother tongue and language, however there is no limit! Football in Dutch, Fashion in French Philosophy in German, rock music in Swedish. Start a flipboard with your language community or have your kids start one with theirs.

 Subscription based apps like PressReader can provide families access to their local newspapers and magazines in their home language. It is also a useful tool in the language classroom.

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