Thursday, 17 February 2011

Promoting Community Languages in Schools...

In the UK, secondary school students can be entered for Community Languages GCSE's in most languages through different exam boards. These languages include Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Dutch, Russian, Portuguese, Bengali, Gujarati, Polish, Chinese (Mandarin), Irish, Modern Hebrew, Japanese, Persian, Modern Greek, Panjabi. Although we have many Latvian, Lithuanian, Hungarian, Afghani students, it is sad that we are not able to enter them in these languages yet.  

There are many advantages for both students and schools to have the opportunity of these exams. The number of students taking the community languages exams is an indicator for the school's effective knowledge of the students' background and how much it values the first languages of its students. Obviously high grades also boost the school's results. 

However, the school's job does not end just with entering the students. They could also provide language clubs whenever possible. There are Saturday or sometimes Sunday schools where students learn their own languages as well as their culture but many students complain that they are extremely tired and want to rest at the weekends. 

I use the first language data to make a list of potential entries every Autumn term. I then contact those students to ask if they are able to read and write in the language because all exams require reading and writing skills. If they are literate, I give them the school letter to take home and have it signed by their parent or guardian to request exam entry. The language clubs, we run at present, are Turkish, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and French. All these clubs are advertised  at different locations of our school but we also make sure that they are published in the school's newsletter. Distributing past papers to the students works wonders because they can practice at home on their own, too.   

I also communicate with the borough's community languages consultant to find out about the other languages entries. Speaking exams need to take place with a teacher who can speak that particular language. Therefore, we collaborate with other schools for conducting the speaking exams. It is also a great opportunity for schools to communicate with each other. 

Community Languages are one of the ways for Community Cohesion where an awareness can be shown of its students' multilingualism and students can be praised  for their ability to speak first language. It has many positive effects in students' lives; in or outside the school. They feel more confident and grounded because their school accepts them as a whole. They participate in other activities more and their competency in first language helps them to learn English better. Students also learn to trust their schools for valuing other cultures. They become more tolerant and helpful to each other. 

Community Languages recognition leads the schools towards a more pleasant environment for students...

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