Featured Resource: Language of the Month
Salam. Hei. Bonzour. That's 'hello' in Dari, Finnish, and Mauritian Creole—just a few of the languages you might be greeted in if you visit Newbury Park Primary School in Redbridge. The children at Newbury Park learn the basics of more than 50 languages, thanks to their school’s unique programme, Language of the Month.
Of Newbury Park's 900 students, 80% speak a language besides English. So in 2002, the school decided to initiate a project that would allow young people to share their home languages with their classmates. Joe Debono, who coordinates the programme, began with Spanish, and has now expanded the project to include languages from Afrikaans to Yoruba.
Today, the school has an award-winning website that includes video segments of students demonstrating basic words in their home languages. Teachers can download resource packs for each language, audio files to help with pronunciation, and loads of language-learning activities. There are also photos, posters, pamphlets, and other resources to facilitate language learning in any classroom.
Each month, students in every Newbury Park classroom learn between 8 and 20 words in a new language. The entire school population uses the words throughout the day. Counting in another language takes place during maths; more words are incorporated into registration, fruit time, and other activities. Visual displays on classroom walls can also be bilingual, such as a jungle project in which animals are labelled in English and Swahili. Students and teachers greet each other in the Language of the Month when they enter the classroom. Games help facilitate learning, too. In a popular Harry Potter-themed activity, student 'wizards' wave their wands to translate English words into the Language of the Month.
An important element of the Language of the Month programme is the role of pupils as teachers. The child who speaks the featured language becomes the resident expert for the month, and is able to help his or her schoolmates learn the words. Joe Debono says that the child expert, who stars in the video segment he produces for each language, 'feels like a movie star'. Parents get involved too, coming in to facilitate special activities in their native languages.
Before the Language of the Month, Joe says that 'children may have hidden their home language, [but] now they see it as something to be proud of.' And the programme doesn't just benefit bilingual students—it also offers monolingual English speakers a valuable opportunity to expand their language skills and learn a bit more about their classmates' backgrounds.
By taking advantage of the free resources available on Newbury Park's website, teachers can bring that opportunity to their own classrooms—whether or not they have students who are fluent in Bravanese (spoken in Baraawe, Somalia) or Twi (spoken in the Ashanti region of Ghana). As the children of Newbury Park might say, 'Ima lize!' (That's Bravanese for 'well done!')
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