EDL – ¡Vámonos!

Category: EDL

Happy European Day of Languages.

Here’s an idea of what you might do if you hadn’t planned anything and want to do something!

This map was published on the Oxford Dictionaries blog last week for World Gratitude Day and features over 20 ways to say thank you from around the world.

Why not try out a few different ways to be grateful today.

And if that’s not enough,this site has more words, and even tells you if it’s formal or informal!

And here’s a video to help too!


Last Friday 26th September was European Day of Languages and, after very successful celebrations last year, Whitehouse Common decided to celebrate once more!

Not content with one day, we had a week of activities with each class doing at least one language based activity during the week, assemblies focussing on awareness of other languages and special attention being paid to intercultural understanding. We invited parents to volunteer their language skills – 9 parents / grandparents volunteered with others saying they would’ve done but it was not a good time.. So we had visits from relatives to tell various classes about Punjabi, Greek, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Basque. Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay for any of them – I’m particularly peeved about the Basque as I still only know one word – goodbye! However, the pupils were buzzing about it. And the lovely thing for me was that the children whose parents had come in are all usually quite timid and having their languages celebrated brought them out of their shells – one teacher siad that a particular child was ‘glowing’ – that, for me, is what it’s all about.

The week culminated on Friday with special assemblies at which each class presented what they had done during the week. We had Reception spelling out the school name in hieroglyphics, Year 1 singing in Spanish, one Year 2 class singing in German and the other counting to ten in Japanese and conducting an exacting Spanish quiz! Year 3 celebrated the languages spoken by the families of pupils in the class by greeting us in their languages, and the other class counted to 10 in Punjabi, Urdu, Gujerati, Chinese German and Spanish. Year 4 had used my del.icio.us bookmarks (at last someone has listened to me!!!) and found the wonderful Italian song written by Mark Pentleton which they sang with great gusto. The Year 5 classes had researched different languages and the countries that spoke them.

Year 6 rounded off our assemblies (we had two – A and B team) with lusty song! 6VH had researched Chinese characters and written their names in Chinese script with their classteacher, but felt that this was not enough so had begged me to teach them a song to go with it. So what did I teach them? what do you think!! La Vaca Lola! We made up actions that involved 70s disco dancing, Makaton and bum wiggling – and it was a hit (not easy to do in a Sevillanas dress I can tell you!) 6JF concluded the other assembly with an unusual choice of language, but one of which I have only myself to blame! When I sent links for EDL to staff, I suggested, tongue in cheek, that someone might like to learn to talk like a pirate. So they did! And sang like pirates too!

We had so much fun that there was almost no time to judge the international fancy dress contest! We had lots of footballers, some Greeks and Romans, countless mini flamenco dancers – christened the ‘MiniMes’ as they wee all dressed like me in miniature! – and a couple of bullfighters, some Italian icecream and pizza salemen, a Chinese dragon, Big Ben, an English rose, Japanese girls, Russian cossacks, a Scottish lassie complete with bagpipes, Carmen Miranda and a Dutch boy in clogs. (Did you know that there are little hole sin the side of clogs to allow the sweat to drain away?!) So hard to judge – I felt really mean, but everyone got a sticker and a round of applause.

I love EDL – so much that I went in on my day off. I see my job as PLL coordinator as being more than teaching Spanish, but as one of encouraging the school family to celebrate and share the languages they know, and to enable them to learn more. I always learn so much from the pupils on such days, and I’ve yet to find a child who has not experienced great delight at trying to teach me words in their language only to find that I can’t immediately or consistently get it right!

Having spent a good while flicking between Youtube and Zamzar over the last couple of days, downloading and converting videos, I’ve had a chance to look over some of my ‘favourited’ videos once more, and came across this one.

I remember They Might Be Giants from their song Birdhouse in your soul – classic lyrics including ‘blue canary in the outlet by the lightswitch who watches over you’ and ‘not to put too fine a point on it, say I’m the only bee in your bonnet’ – and It’s Istanbul not Constantinople – but here they are singing a song about the Alphabet of Nations. They cheat for X but otherwise a country for each letter.

I was thinking of using it as a challenge for European Day of Languages – some ideas:

  • learning the song would be the simplest
  • play the song each day for a week then have a quiz on countries
  • name the languages spoken in the countries
  • name the capital cities
  • challenge pupils to label the countries on a map
  • pupils rewrite the song with countries of their choice
  • write a collaborative Alphabet of Languages – then learn a word in each language

Doesn’t have to be for EDL – it would be a good exercise for global awareness and ICU at any point.

There is an Animaniacs video naming countries too, but I prefer this one as it’s shorter, less dated (in terms of look and also countries that no longer exist) and also funkier. ;o)


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I came across Omniglot the other day and bookmarked it in my del.icio.us account for further investigation.
Omniglot is ‘a guide to the languages, alphabets, syllabaries and other writing systems of the world’.

You can find out information about a myraid of languages including ones I’ve never heard of!

It’s fascinating to look at all the different writing systems both real – some Mayanscript

and some imaginary – some Klingon!

There are tips on language learning, as well as a multilingual bookstore and articles on languages.

In fact, there’s so much on there that it’s hard to do it justice in a blogpost so I’d encourage you to look for yourself. However, here are three of my favourite parts.

1. Language related art
This is a piece of art by Venantius Pinto based on the Torcharian script and there are links to other examples of artwork such as Mike O’Connell‘s artwork featuring a number of different scripts and Peggy Shearn who is inspired by language and writing systems (see also below)

2. Useful foreign phrases

Ever wanted to know how to say ‘Please speak more slowly’ in Estonian?

Palun rääkige aeglasemalt

Or ‘Where’s the toilet?’ if you’re caught short in Greece?
??? ????? ?? ?????????
There is a quite long list of possible phrases in a wide range of languages – some with accompanying soundfiles to aid pronunciation. And there are also phrases that are possibly not as useful, but nonetheless amusing such as ‘My hovercraft is full of eels’ – here in Mandarin Chinese ?????????? and Polish Mój poduszkowiec jest pe?en w?gorzy and ‘Stop the world, I want to get off!’ in perhaps Czech Zastavte sv?t, chci vystoupit! or Armenian ??????? ?????? ????????, ??? ?????? ????:

You can also access in a variety of languages, again some with soundfiles-
for example –

??? ????? ?? ???? ?????;
(Miá pápia ma piá pápia)
A duck but which duck). (GREEK)

Esel essen Nesseln nicht, Nesseln essen Esel nicht.
Donkeys don’t eat nettles, and nettles don’t eat donkeys. (GERMAN)

Mae Llewellyn y llyfrgellydd o Lanelli wedi llyfu llawer o lyfaint.
Llewellyn, the librarian from Llanelli, licked many toads. (WELSH)

3.Proverbs and quotations about languages.

Omniglot has collected together proverbs and quotations in various tongues on the subject of languages. The majority are quite profound –

Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

Una lengua natural es el archivo adonde han ido a parar las experiencias, saberes y creencias de una comunidad.
A natural language is the archive where the experiences, knowledge and beliefs of a community are stored.
– Fernando Lázaro Carreter (SPANISH)

Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon.
A nation without a language is a nation without a heart. (WELSH)

but there are others that are less ‘serious’ –

Chan fhiach cuirm gun a còmhradh.
A feast is no use without good talk. (GAELIC-SCOTLAND)

It’s no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase “As pretty as an airport” appear.
– Douglas Adams

(Ti?n bù pà, dì bù pà, zh? pà Gu?ngd?ng rén shu? P?t?nghuà)
I fear neither heaven nor earth, I only fear Cantonese speakers trying to speak Mandarin. (MANDARIN)

(Tìn m? gìng, deih m? gìng, jí gìng b?kfòng yàhn góng Gwóngdùngwá m?jeng)
I fear neither heaven nor earth, I only fear Mandarin speakers speaking Cantonese badly. (CANTONESE)

My particular favourites include

Any time you think some other language is strange, remember that yours is just as strange, you’re just used to it.

Kolik jazyk? znáš, tolikrát jsi ?lov?kem.
You live a new life f

or every new language you speak.
If you know only one language, you live only once. (Czech)

and this French saying that I hope will soon be seen as untrue –

Un homme qui parle trois langues est trilingue.
Un homme qui parle deux langues est bilingue.
Un homme qui ne parle qu’une langue est anglais.
A man who speaks three language is trilingual.
A man who speaks two languages is bilingual.
A man who speaks only one language is English.

– Claude Gagnière

Looking at all the above ‘favourites’ I can see the OMNIGLOT site as an excellent resource for expanding the vision of languages in an interesting and fun way.

Why not use it as a resource for European Day of Languages on 26th September?

You could use the artwork to inspire your pupils to create their own having looked at the section on various scripts and writing systems.

Or challenge pupils to learn tongue twister in another language – the sound files are great for that!

Or each class could attempt to learn a phrase in as many languages as possible – and other classes could guess the phrase – I think we’ll be doing this at WCPS!

Whatever you do, it’s well worth a look!

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