- I want something fun!
- I don’t know any languages so it’s got to be easy.
- My Mum’s Romanian, I want to do Romanian, can we?
- I want to know what they speak like, people in other countries.
- How many languages are there? Can we do all of them?
- I can’t spell very well, does it matter?
What do the children need? – and does Springboard provide it?
They need success: success in a foreign language shouldn’t be just for those who have ‘an aptitude’.
All children, including those who need extra support, should be given the opportunity to succeed right from the beginning; for some children learning a language represents a ‘new start’, something they haven’t tried yet – it’s a bit like giving them a second chance to succeed at something, for them to feel good about themselves, so it’s very, very important that it is something at which these children can succeed.
They need to feel valued: in classes where English is not always the first language of all the children, an ‘independent’ language base makes everyone feel his or her language is valued.
They need Literacy: words are words – whatever the language. Literacy is literacy and children need a solid introduction to foreign language learning alongside mother-tongue literacy. The two are not inseparable. A grammatically regular ‘you write what you hear’ language is a valuable means of literacy support for all children, particularly for those experiencing difficulties with English literacy.
They need continuity, time to absorb. ‘Taster courses’ in different languages, each lasting a few weeks or a term are just that, very good ‘tasters’, but they serve a different purpose; they don’t encourage children to construct knowledge, to create, to build awareness, block on block. They work ‘horizontally’ and not ‘vertically’; children springing into a language ocean need to spring upwards!
They need good role models: a non-specialist teacher can easily cope with the Springboard programme. He or she is already a specialist in Literacy; the extra language features are easily learned and implemented.
They need a flying start. Follow the Springboard programme for a year or two and:
- raise children’s language awareness
- enhance their grammatical sensitivity
- tune their ears to foreign sounds
- make children aware of different alphabets and punctuation
- let them create words using a set of wordbuilders (affixes)
- let them realise that languages can have flexible word-order
- let them communicate
and open the door to other languages.