I came across a great article on BBC News today about a school in London that encourages children with a second language to teach their fellow students.

When a new student joins the school, they are encouraged to use the language they speak at home and teach it to others through the school’s “language of the month” scheme. Students of all ages are taught basics of the language such as good morning, thank you, and numbers up to ten. Through the project, the school has “collected” around 50 languages, from Tamil to Swahili.

Founder of the scheme and ethnic minority achievement teacher Joe Debono said: “It started simply as a common courtesy, but as we went on we found that children who have their language valued are more open then to learning English than if we just let them hide their language away.
“The children doing the language of the month are treated like little movie stars
and that’s the way they get to see themselves.”

The scheme seems like a fantastic way to celebrate diversity and recognise the importance of speaking a second language, something that is becoming especially important as there are less children taking languages at secondary school level in the UK. It was deemed no longer compulsory after the age of 14 in 2004, and since then, the number of students taking a second language has dropped.

This appears to have had a knock-on effect at university level, with reports that language departments will close and language courses dropped because of declining numbers of student applications. Campaigners are now saying the shortage of language graduates will “hold Britain back as it tries to emerge from recession”.

Kathryn Board, the chief executive of Cilt [National Centre of Languages], said: “English is one of the great global languages but it will only take us so far. Our engagement with the non-English speaking world will remain superficial and one-sided unless we develop our capacity in other languages.”

(Source: Times Online)

Let’s hope the government initiative to make language teaching compulsory in primary schools will help future generations to keep learning languages and continue to be treated like “little movie stars”.