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Teaching Language With Twitter

Your mental image of a knight probably includes weapons like a sword or a lance. However, a university professor in the United States just earned a knighthood using more modern weapons, specifically Twitter, Facebook and Skype.  According to WACH, a local Fox News affiliate, Dr. Lara Lomicka Anderson will be knighted by the French government for incorporating these technologies into her foreign language classes.

Dr. Anderson teaches French to students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. She is being made a Chevalier of the Order des Palmes Academiques for her innovative teaching techniques that include the use of tools like Twitter as well as international travel. As Dr. Anderson explained to WACH,  “One way I do that is through a partnership with a school in France located outside of Paris, and we use all of these technologies to promote a collaborative partnership among students.”

The two schools partner so that the US students can learn French and the French students can learn English. Each student is assigned a partner from the other school. Social networking technologies like Facebook, Skype and Twitter become the glue that hold these partnerships together, giving students a convenient way to practice languages with each other.  After a year’s worth of study, the American students then travel to France to meet their study partners “in real life.”

The Ordre des Palmes Académiques was instituted by Napoleon Bonaparte  to reward those who “advance the French language.”  This won’t be the first award Dr. Anderson has received for her work- according to a press release from the university, she was also awarded the National Award for Excellence in Technology by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language and Cengage Learning in 2008.

Young Interpreters

Today teachers in Britain have to cope with young children who have very little or no grasp of the English language. It is understandably difficult for the children who often misbehave due to the language barriers they face.

A school in Devon may have the answer. They have encouraged a small group of their students, many of whom came to England from foreign countries, to act as interpreters helping the new students to fit in.

Students in the group like Newsround Press Packer Angela have learnt basic language skills to help those with limited English in their class. Using a range of tools like picture cards, hand gestures and a basic language prompt sheets they are able to help the new student to fit in, learn English and therefore help improve their overall education.

It is so nice to read about young people being positive about language and helping each other to learn new skills, developing those skills for the future.

Learning languages in the United Kingdom is no longer very popular. Perhaps this is because to learn to read, write and speak a new language is very difficult and everyone speaks English so why should they bother. The latter is a common misconception believed by many adults and children.

The key to getting kids into languages seems to be to start teaching them at a young age, right when they begin learning in their first year at school. After all our first 3-4 years at school are probably the most progressive after that we are building on knowledge we already have. Children learn so quickly at that age reading, writing, basic maths and science skills why not teach them basic language skills as well.

With advances in technology most schools are now equipped with computers which could also be used to aid learning. In previous years children were often encouraged to write to a foreign pen pal. With access to the internet children could now talk to students in a foreign country via a web cam. Multimedia tools make the experience of learning a language much more fun.

Let them try out different languages, they might find one more interesting or fun to learn, which may retain their attention into adult life. Learning a language could make them stand out from the crowd when they start working.

In today’s multicultural business environment the ability to speak a foreign language is a huge advantage. It would be great to see more schools across the United Kingdom using students to help foreigners learn English developing each child for the better.

Teaching Deaf Children

There is a long-standing debate in the deaf community over the best way to educate deaf children. Should they be taught with other deaf children, in classes that emphasize sign language? Or should they be “main-streamed” into classrooms with hearing children, taught spoken language as much as possible and encouraged to take advantage of new technologies like cochlear implants?

Now, some sign language advocates in Indiana fear that budget shortfalls will determine the answer to that question. For example, Naomi S. Horton, executive director of Hear Indiana, which supports educating deaf children in mainstream classrooms, told the New York Times that:

“Kids in the mainstream save society, taxpayers, a significant amount of money in the short-term and in the long-term when it comes to being integrated into the hearing world,” though she added “There is a financial benefit, but at the end of the day it has to be a parent’s choice.”

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Teaching in The Inuit Language

The Inuit, a group of native peoples living in Canada, have a graduation rate of only 25%. Obviously, something has to be done. But what? After studying the issue for more than two years, The National Committee on Inuit Education has concluded that one of the most important strategies for improving the graduation rate among Inuit children is bilingual education: teaching them in both their native language, Inuktitut, and either French or English, depending on the region of Canada.

Mary Simon, the leader of Canada’s national Inuit group, told the Globe and Mail that:

“We need to do much more to get the graduation rates up in terms of our kids who aren’t getting through school…We need to implement an era of new investment. I call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to fulfil the words of his speech from the throne to make Canada’s North a cornerstone of its agenda and … do something truly significant for the next generation of Inuit.”

According to a UN study published in 2008, indigenous children tend to do better the longer they are taught in their native language. Plus, there is ample evidence to show that the current system is not working. A 25% graduation rate is simply not acceptable. Read more