languages – ¡Vámonos!
 

Category: languages

June 2021

I love being in nature, whether it’s running, walking or just loitering. In recent times, this has become all the more important to me, not least as a way of finding peace and calm in a world that seems to have gone bonkers. I don’t think I’m alone in this either! There seems to be an increasing awareness of the value of being outdoors, partly because it’s been the only way to meet until recently but also due to a new habits formed by being ‘locked down.’ With all this in mind, I was so excited to find a tweet today about #30DaysWildMultilingual.

Every year in June, The Wildlife Trusts run the 30 Days Wild challenge – a challenge to do an activity linked to nature, every day, for the whole month, and Multilingualism in Schools decided, in conjunction with their local Wildlife Trust in Sheffield, that they would like to create a language based challenge aimed both at those learning a language at school and those who are growing up multilingual. Each day of June there is a simple challenge linking languages and the natural world that can be completed by children (and adults!) of all ages. They include finding the names for flowers in other languages, counting hops, litter picking and eating outside. Some can even be linked to our topics (likes and dislikes, weather and colours)

I’m really excited by this and will be sharing it with learners at both my schools as an enrichment activity. I recently asked children what sorts of things they would like to do to make language learning better; challenges, and activities in different languages came up so this is serendipitous. The Multilingualism in Schools Twitter account @LostWor_l_ds will tweet an activity a day using the hashtag #30DaysWild and #30DaysWildMultilingual but you can download all 30 challenges from their website or below, and complete as many as you want, whenever you want!

Even if you aren’t able to join in with all the activities, why not choose one to complete with your learners as a one off lesson? For example, why not use the Cloud spotting task as a way to practise using a bilingual dictionary, or as a way of exploring other languages using Google Translate or online dictionaries?

Or learn a song about nature and take it outside to sing (although we’re allowed to sing inside now, it’s far better outside, especially if this lovely weather continues!)

For me, although I teach Spanish at both my schools, language learning is about languages plural, and it’s vital that ALL languages are seen as important, especially those spoken and/or understood by our school and local communities. I really hope that children will use these challenges to share their own languages and also explore others as well as – or even instead of – expanding their Spanish vocabulary. I’m also looking forward to children getting outside and exploring, appreciating the school grounds as well as their local environment.

If you do join in, make sure to tweet @LostWor_l_ds and use the hashtags #30DaysWild and #30DaysWildMultilingual or, if you don’t use Twitter, email lostworlds@sheffield.ac.uk or leave comments on their website.

There’s more to explore on the LostWor(l)ds website – expect another post in the near future!

If you’re interested in the wildlife aspect particularly, it’s also worth checking out your local Wildlife Trust website for details of events near you. I’ve found that my local one – Birmingham and the Black Country – are planning special events (not language related) for the Big Wild Weekend including a camp out, a quiz and talks from experts.

The Bitmojis were a clue…

I once more had the pleasure of presenting at Language World, the annual conference of Association for Language Learning (ALL).
My presentation was entitled Take One Book and was the sequel to the presentation I did at PHOrum in November (you can read about it here) this time choosing a book that was originally written in Italian and has no English translation.

I really enjoyed sharing my ideas of how to use ¡Ojo Oso! and was pleasantly surprised that I managed to finish in time and have time for questions. I experimented with using subtitles/captions during my presentation after comments by Helen Simpson on LiPS made me think about accessibility. I need to watch back the recording of my session (which has just been made available for those who registered for the conference but missed the session) to see exactly how accurate they were but I know that when I spoke Spanish they definitely had trouble as they were set to English! For example un agujero became ‘all alcohol’ and una madriguera became ‘mother together.’

Below you can find a PDF of my presentation. I’ve removed the story slides due to copyright but you can find links to versions of the story read online, as well as to where you can purchase a copy.

At the end there is a link to my Pinterest where I collected together materials for the talk, some of which I didn’t use! You can also access it via this QR code.

http://bit.ly/OjoOso

Perhaps you have ideas that spring to mind? Or you have a book that you could use in a similar way? If you have any comments or questions, do leave a comment below.

Postscript – you can watch the ‘standby/rehearsal’ recording of the session here.

Share a story!

I’ve just made a quiz for the class I have on Thursday, based on well known children’s books.

All the covers are in languages other than English but are easy to identify thanks to the visuals.

There are 10 books ranging from picture books to chapter books, and after the first 10 slides that show just the covers, the next 10 slides reveal the titles in English as well as the language in which the book is written. You could use this as an extra part of the quiz, awarding bonus points for successfully identifying the language.

All the books are available from Little Linguist.

I’ve made another quiz of Roald Dahl book covers in Spanish as well.

Today is International Mother Language Day, declared by UNESCO in 2002 to “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world.”

International Mother Language Day recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals’ focus on leaving no one behind. UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.

This year’s observance is a call on policymakers, educators and teachers, parents and families to scale up their commitment to multilingual education, and inclusion in education to advance education recovery in the context of COVID-19. This effort also contributes to the United Nations International Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), for which UNESCO is the lead agency, and which places multilingualism at the heart of indigenous peoples’ development.

This was tweeted by @Glasgowlangs

Follow the hashtag #InternationalMotherLanguageDay or #InternationalMotherLanguageDay2021 on Twitter for more celebrations of the day, and think about how you can contribute to the safeguarding the linguistic diversity of our world.

Speaking a language confidently and coherently is an important part of the curriculum in the United Kingdom. However, the impact of Covid-19 has meant that many pupils have had fewer opportunities to speak the languages they are learning.  Therefore, the Association for Language Learning, the British Council and the cultural and linguistic bodies in the United Kingdom have combined efforts to devise an exciting event entitled ‘Express Yourself in Lockdown’.

This will be an opportunity to showcase language learners’ enjoyment of a language that they are learning or that is normally used in their home community from home (except for English*!). 

Language learners can prepare:

  • A short poem in the target language (written by themselves or by another author)
  • A short presentation on any theme e.g. climate change, equality, why I love languages
  • A short sketch
  • A short dialogue

This can be a solo or joint performance but should be no longer than 90 seconds in total and should be recorded in landscape mode. The participants will record themselves delivering their performance, however participants who are under-16 should use either PowerPoint slides/Bitmoji/other pictures or video imagery rather than showing their faces.

Teachers can then upload the performances to a teacher or school Twitter, Instagram or YouTube account with the hashtag #CelebrateSpeaking and the language chosen (e.g. #French) by 28 February 2021. [*If your pupil speaks EAL, they may enter in English BUT you must add #EAL so it’s clear!] Don’t forget to tag @Schools_British  on Twitter or @BritishCouncil  on Instagram when sharing your entry.

You can find out more about the initiative (including helpful tips!) here http://bit.ly/36lnGYz

Icons made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

At one of my schools, I spent the lesson before the half term break focusing on a poem written by Clare Seccombe from her brilliant new resource Poesía. As well as working on the meaning and using them to further the children’s understanding, I also invited children to read along with me as I read, and then, if they wished, to record it and submit it as part of their Teams Assignment for that week. We’ll see how many I receive!

One young lady at my other school decided to record her rewritten version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar 🐛 – El Monstruo Muy Hambriento – and agreed for me to share it. You can see and hear it below. I was gobsmacked at her accent given that we have been learning remotely since Christmas and she has had no live lessons, just a couple of videos of me reading La Oruga Muy Hambrienta.

Over the next few days I’ll be sharing some other poems that you might use for the challenge. Don’t forget, adults can join in too!

At this time of year, I’m normally gearing up for my annual ‘weekend away’ at Language World. It’s taken me to York, Lancaster, Leicester, Rugby, Nottingham, London, Newcastle, Manchester, Loughborough and of course, Oxford where Language World and I first ‘met.’ This year, things are a little different as I won’t physically be going anywhere as the conference is coming to me in my home via the wonders of video conferencing. And it can come to you too if you sign up!

Language World is the annual conference and training event of the Association for Language Learning (ALL).
The theme of Language World 2021 is “A rich curriculum for ALL”.

As the blurb on their site says:
“Schools are currently exploring how they can offer rich, exciting education for all their pupils. Ofsted encourages schools to make positive decisions to preserve or develop richness of experience along with breadth and depth of curriculum – for example, giving pupils the opportunity to learn a number of foreign languages and arts subjects, recognising local ambitions.  We look forward to sharing ideas and best practice from among our languages community about these kinds of curricular aspects, and about learning that goes deeper into content, motivates learners of Languages, culture and communication, and is broader than the exam specifications.”


Keynote speakers this year include:

  • President of ALL (2020-22), Kim Bower;
  • Dr. Michael Wardle, Language Lead for OFSTED;
  • international expert on CLIL and Professor of Languages Education and Classroom Learning at university of  Edinburgh, Professor Do Coyle
  • Professor of Applied Linguistics at the UCL Institute of Education, University College London, Professor Li Wei

Im particularly looking forward to hearing from Professor Li Wei on Friday talking about Multilingualism, Language Learning and Social Cognition and then from Jane Driver on Saturday talking about Using CLIL and MFL strategies to maximise the curriculum for EAL learners.

And then there are the talks and presentations from which you can choose. Each session is 30 minutes long with a 20 minute presentation followed by 10 minutes for questions. Easier for concentration but challenging when you’re planning a session and always have too much for 45 minutes…

Some sessions that caught my eye as a primary languages practitioner include:

  • Promoting intercultural understanding through cross curricular and extra-curricular activities in the primary classroom – lots of practical ideas led by Bernadette Clinton and Raquel Tola Rego
  • A recipe for success! Creating a bespoke scheme of work – Clare Seccombe
  • Engaging, enriching, inclusive: ensuring a primary MFL curriculum which delivers for SEND pupils – Eleanor Chettle Cully
  • Celebrate your bilingual learners and promote linguistic diversity in your school with an International Mother Tongue Day project – Hannah White

As usual, I have a problem! The first two are at the same time as each other AND I’m speaking at the same time! And the second two are also concurrent. I’m hoping that with the online nature of the conference we might be able to catch up… but I’m not sure so don’t quote me on it!

Decisions decisions!

Other sessions I’m looking forward to:

  • What does an anti-racist, decolonised MFL curriculum look like?
  • Embedding languages into the curriculum: practical examples from Scotland and Wales
  • Teaching Phonics – Mapping, Method and Moving on

Another innovation this year is that some 30 minute slots split into 3 mini talks and I’m looking forward to many of those too including Dr Judith Rifeser talking about Nurturing intercultural understanding and celebrating pupils’ diverse and multilingual voices through creative projects, Bryn Llewellyn sharing Learning Languages on the Move – Developing Language Vocabulary using Physically Active Learning Approaches, Helen Stokes talking about Making connections between languages with translation skills: for easier transition between KS2 and 3 and How MFL teaching can boost whole school literacy led by Clare Caio.

So much that it’s hard to choose! You might even want to ‘attend’ my session entitled Take One Book in which I’ll explore how to make full use of a storybook (a different one from the one I shared at PHOrum!) You can find further details on the Language World 2021 website and the programme can be found here.

Register here.

I am very much looking forward to a new experience and whilst I’d rather we were meeting together as usual, I’m excited for the new format and will still be wearing LiPS themed clothing and sketchnoting!

Wondering why the LiPS? Check out Languages in Primary Schools group on Facebook!

Find out about my experiences at previous Language Worlds by following the links below!

Reflections on Language World 2008
Absorbing Language Learning 2009
Language World 2010 and various posts following including Raising Global Awareness and Creativity talks as well as sessions by Clare DoddLiz Black Cynthia Martin Oh, and my session – Bricklaying for beginners!
Language World 2011 – my session Entitled to enjoy Primary Languages and many other sessions by Chris HarteJan Lewandowski and Liz Fotheringham
Language World 2014 overview     Session on apps
Language World 2015 in sketchnotes
Language World 2016 in sketchnotes  Session on Sketchnoting
Language World 2017 in sketchnotes
Language World 2018 in sketchnotes My session Using Technology for collaboration 
Sue Cave’s session – Language Detectives Primary Show and Tell
Language World 2019 – The Sketchnotes My session on Supporting learners’ understanding and enjoyment of stories in the primary languages classroom.
I was briefly at Language World 2020 but didn’t blog it as it coincided with a particularly stressful time – including lockdown beginning a few days later!

image shows 5 coloured people icons standing behind a clipboard with the word survey on it and a green tick.

Last night I attended a webinar hosted by ALL London with the British Council to launch the Language Trends survey for 2021.

Language Trends is a yearly report that discusses the state of language learning in England and is written by Ian Collen of Queens University, Belfast. It’s a really important report on language learning at primary and secondary level in England that is published and read at high level by government and policy makers. The more responses they get, the better the picture of language learning across the country as it is informed by the results of a survey sent to schools.

British Council written in dark blue capital letters to the right of four turquoise dots in a square.

The Language Trends survey 2021 is being emailed to schools this week. It’ll be sent to the public email of your school – often the HT or enquiry@ Last year, it was notable that the responses tended to come from schools in more ‘affluent’ areas statistics wise (eg lower than average FSM) so it would be good to have a wider breadth of data this time. Ian Collen, the author of the report, wants to hear all about what’s going on in primary schools. One of last year’s finding was that “Primary Languages are embedded in policy but not in practice.” Therefore, if you ARE putting policy into practice, this is an opportunity to share all the wonderful things that are going on.

If you are asked to fill it in, please do! If you aren’t, email the Head and ask them to do it, or offer to do it for them! It’ll take you about 15 minutes. The deadline is 29th January which is very soon!!

If you’d like to read last year’s report, you can find it (and other research into language learning in the UK) on the British Council website Language Trends 2020 or it’s below in PDF,

As mentioned in an earlier post, I was asked to speak at The Language Show which this year went online and was delivered via Zoom. Below is my presentation and brief notes on what I talked about.


Thank you to all those who saw it ‘live’ for being there – even if I couldn’t see your faces which I found quite disconcerting – and for your questions and comments. I saved the chat and enjoyed reading back your comments. Any questions that were in the chat and not put into the Q&A tab so therefore went unanswered, I’ll answer below.

My presentation.

If you want to see me delivering it live, you can view the recording of the session for the next month (so until mid December 2020 I would think) via the Language Show website and clicking on my name (see below)

Below are links to resources, reading and things on which I commented/shared as there are lost of hyperlinked images!

The pitfalls of Google Translate https://www.redlinels.com/pros-and-cons-of-google-translate/
Physical Spanish Phonics https://brilliantpublications.co.uk/physical-spanish-phonics.html
Hands of the World at WCPS http://www.whitehousecommon.bham.sch.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3020:this-is-me-signed-in-makaton-hands-of-the-world-project&catid=81&Itemid=278

One of the songs in which we collaborated – Makaton used to communicate across countries and languages.

Old World Language Families Tree https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59665/feast-your-eyes-beautiful-linguistic-family-tree See also http://www.sssscomic.com/comic.php?page=195
Oxford University Press dictionary sheets https://global.oup.com/education/content/dictionaries/free-resources/oxford-school-dictionary-word-origins-free-resources/?region=uk
Something Rhymes with Purple podcast https://play.acast.com/s/somethingrhymeswithpurple

Language Links posters https://www.lightbulblanguages.co.uk/resources-language-links.htm
Slide 37 worksheet https://www.lightbulblanguages.co.uk/resources/PrimarySpanish/days.pdf
Slide 36 The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax and other irreverent essays on the study of language. http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/EskimoHoax.pdf
Futurelearn course on Intercultural Studies – Language and Culture https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intercultural-studies-language-culture
eTwinning https://www.britishcouncil.org/etwinning
Let’s Go Cultural! Erasmus+ project https://erasmusplusletsgocultural.blogspot.com/

Hello! song from the above project.

Find out more here too. WCPS Let’s Go Cultural blog

In the chat Lisa Ng asked about the exercise on slide 21. It’s from a unit on your town and the task the children were doing was using the structure En mi pueblo hay (place) Aquí se puede (infinitive) We’ve been talking about what there is/isn’t in our town, and what our town is like, and moved on to looking at infinitives. The task was supported by a ‘trapdoor’ grid that we’d used to rehearse the structure. The child whose work I shared had extended his sentences using adjectives which weren’t on the grid and applied his previous learning of adjectival position and agreement. I’d suggested it as a way to enhance their writing but not pushed the point which was why I was so pleased.
Paula asked if I remembered The Language Show a few years ago at Olympia with my trolley of resources. Of course I do! I still have it although in Covid19 times it has been rested for a bit as I’m not allowed to use as many resources.
And I’d just like to reiterate what people were saying in the chat about making mistakes and being an example to your learners. I completely agree – modelling how we deal with mistakes, and showing that we are lifelong learners is SO important. One of my Y4 classes answer the register by greeting me in variety of languages and I’m trying to learn (and remember!) the response to each. They’re being very patient and keep repeating it until I get it correct. Problem is, by the time the next week comes, I’ve forgotten most of it. I keep trying though – which is all I ask of them!

Finally, if you teach primary languages in the UK, I recommended joining Languages in Primary School group (LiPS) on Facebook. Here’s the link. Please make sure you answer all 3 questions when you ask to join! https://www.facebook.com/groups/primarylanguages


If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll answer.

I’ll leave you with Westlife – More than words

Register for free and join online!

Due to current circumstances The Language Show, which is normally held in November at Olympia in London, is going online this year.

Held the weekend 13th-15th November, the show has three streams of talks:
For those who love languages – talks, entertainment and insights.
For language teachers – CPD for teachers in primary, secondary, HE, FE, adult, EFL/ESOL
For language professionals – interpreters, translators and those who want to put their languages to work

Each stream offers a programme of seminars starting mid morning on Friday Saturday and Sunday and are all free to attend via Zoom. Some that have caught my eye include

Friday 13.30-14.15: Unlocking the hidden meanings of everyday words which is all hidden meanings and ancient connections, and the etymology of words.

Saturday 13.30-14.15: Foods and Words: Can our appetite motivate language learning? which looks at the history of some staple British food of foreign origin and introduces basic linguistic principles to understanding their names.

Sunday 11.00-11.45: 5 Weeks of Low-Prep Fun in the Language Classroom – Janina Klimas which offers 25 easy-to-prepare, engaging activities and resources that get students excited about learning languages and through some of the rough parts, all while having fun. 

Friday 15.30-16.15: Introduction to subtitling – Lindsay Bywood which will cover the various types of subtitling, how they are created, how the industry is set up and how to train and get work as a subtitler.


I’m definitely signing up for “We Are Multilingual”: Identity-based activities to promote and enhance language learning which is being delivered on Sunday 14.30-15.15 by Linda Fisher and Karen Forbes on behalf of the Multilingual Identity in Education group at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

On Saturday from 1300-1345 you can join me as I talk about how language learning is about More than words. Here’s the blurb!

“This session explores the notion that learning a language is about so much more than lists of words and grammar. Drawing from the speaker’s own observations and experiences as a lifelong language learner as well as a teacher and mother, we will consider the importance of context, culture, communication, celebration and connections in nurturing learners with an enduring passion for language(s).”

You can register for free now on the website Follow all the latest news by following The Language Show on Twitter or Facebook.

Hopefully ‘see’ some of you there!

Just before we broke up for the summer, I asked the 2019 Language Leaders* team at my school for their thoughts on language learning. To help them, I posed some questions. I’ve already shared this on the school website but thought others might be interested in their responses.

Why did you volunteer to be a Language Leader?

I volunteered to be a Language Leader because I love learning languages; when I go on holiday I like showing off how I know how to speak the language. (RM)

I wanted to find out more about languages as they’re fun. (PS)

I volunteered as a Language Leader because I like learning how other people communicate. (AT)

I wanted to represent the school. (IH)

I thought it would be fun! (JS/SLG)

I volunteered because languages make me happy. (RS)

I wanted to explore the different languages and how to speak them (JJ)

I volunteered because I like to learn languages (AK)

I volunteered because I wanted to try something new (LD)

What do you like about languages?

I like speaking languages – it makes me feel proud! (GG)

It makes countries different (LD)

I like how other people talk and I don’t understand them. (AT)

I like that if you learn a language, you can communicate and understand people that speak other languages. (LE)

I like the sounds you make and how you spell words in other languages (JJ)

I like that different countries have different ways of communicating. (RM)

When I speak languages it makes me feel….. (RS)

It’s fun to learn! (IH/NH)

I like that everyone’s language is unique (PS)

I find them interesting, (JS/SLG)

When you go on holiday you can speak that language. (AK)

What do you find hard? What do you do when it’s hard?

When it’s hard, I practice what to say and find someone who already speaks that language to help. (JJ)

When it’s hard I just practice! (IH)

I find remembering the language hard. (LE)

Phonics and pronunciation can be tricky! (LD)

I sometimes find pronouncing words hard but I don’t give up as I have an open mindset. (GG)

When I find it hard I do some chants to help me remember (PS)

Sometimes I find writing hard so I ask for help. (SLG)

As a Language Leader I find it hard to choose the award winners! (AK)

I found writing my application letter for Language Leader hard! (NH)

Do you know any languages other than English? How did you learn them?

I know Arabic, Urdu Spanish and a bit of French! (IH)

I know Punjabi and Spanish – Punjabi from home and Spanish from school. (GG)

I know Hindi as my family speak it at home but I sometimes feel embarrassed speaking it in front of my friends. (RM)

I know how to introduce myself in French. (AT)

I know some Italian as we go on holiday there (LD)

My parents speak Tamil and I listen to them (JJ)

I know Urdu because I speak it at home (RS)

I know some Italian as my grandma was born in Italy (AK)

Do you enjoy learning Spanish?

A resounding yes!

I love Spanish – especially with Señora Stevens! I like that it has masculine and feminine! (RM)

I enjoy Spanish because my family go on holiday to Spain some years. (AT)

I like Spanish; I like how you have masculine and feminine and can explore how to decide which gender nouns have. (JJ)

I find learning Spanish with the great Señora Stevens really fun and interesting. (PS)

What would make language learning even better for you?

I could practice harder! (IH)

I’d like to learn some useful questions for the future; for example, how to ask for a cupcake in Italian. (AT)

I’d like to learn another language! (JS)

To do more mindmaps and diagrams to help me remember words (SLG)

I’d like to learn more languages and the differences between them. (LE)

Comparing more languages – for example hello is Vanakam in Tamil and Hola in Spanish (JJ)

I’d like to learn some gymnastics words as I love gymnastics (AK)

I think visiting the country would be a great idea! (LD)

If once a week we could read a story in a different language in assembly (PS)

I love the honesty of the answers they gave (I did tell them that I would be sharing their responses!) Having read their ideas, I’ve bought some new books and asked for more assemblies (I already do more than my share!), and will be experimenting with new ways of learning and recording vocabulary.

*Language Leaders at my school support and promote language learning of all sorts. Children write a letter of application and then the previous year’s team help me to choose. It’s normally a child per class but this year we went for a team across LKS2 and UKS2, predominantly formed of Y4 and 5s. The original team (four years ago) wrote their own “job description” which I’ve added for some context.

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