Back in March, over 1,100 primary school children from around the UK joined our annual competition, the Junior Language Challenge, learning Italian online. Over the next three months, they scored points in the language games, and then in June the top scorers from each region of the country progressed to the second round.
Not wanting to make it too easy, for their next challenge we asked them to learn the notoriously tricky language of Japanese. Impossible, you might say – how can you expect children under 11 to learn such a difficult language?
As we discovered this week, it’s not impossible at all. Over the last ten days, we’ve been travelling around the country for the regional semi-finals, and have been seriously impressed with what we’ve seen. All the children had clearly worked really hard, and we had several very tense contests in the race to grab a place in the final. There were some familiar faces, and some first-time competitors, and everyone gave it their all. So on behalf of EuroTalk, thank you to all the teachers, parents and most importantly, the children for joining in so enthusiastically.
The competition also raised nearly £6,000 for a brilliant organisation called onebillion, who create apps to teach children in developing countries basic maths and reading, giving them valuable learning opportunities that we often take for granted here in the UK. onebillion were recently featured by BBC Click, and their report gives you a taster of the fantastic work they’re doing in Malawi.
But what about our finalists? They’re not finished yet. For their third and final language, they’ll be learning the African language of Somali, ready for the grand final in London next month, where they’ll compete for the title of Junior Language Challenge Champion 2014, and a family holiday to Africa.
We hope that everyone who’s taken part in the JLC this year, whether you’re continuing on to the final or not, really enjoyed it. Now you know that you can learn any language, even difficult ones, the sky’s the limit!
And to our finalists… see you next month
Nine year old Ben Fawcett will be cutting short his family holiday in Disneyworld to take part in this month’s Junior Language Challenge final.
Ben, who is the first pupil from Oakwood School near Chichester to get through to the final, had been due to be in Florida when the final of EuroTalk’s JLC takes place on October 21st.
His mum, Anna, says: “The timing couldn’t have been worse for us. We’re taking the children to Disneyworld for two weeks but Ben and I are only going for one week because the final is in the middle of our planned holiday.
“He’s disappointed but we gave him the choice and he said, ‘No Mummy, I’ve come this far – I want to do it,’ and I’m happy to fly back with him. But the timing couldn’t have been worse. We arrive back the day before the competition so he’ll probably be jet-lagged…”
Holiday plans apart, entering the competition has been a good thing for the Fawcetts.
Anna adds: “Children from Oakwood have made it through to the semi-finals before but not to the finals so Ben’s as proud as a peacock! It’s been really good for his confidence not just with languages but generally. He’s thoroughly enjoyed the competition and I’ve hardly had to remind him to look at the games.”
Having picked up some of the basics of Portuguese and Kazakh in the first two rounds of the competition, Ben is now one of around 40 finalists trying to get to grips with the last JLC language, Luganda.
Anna adds: “I’m obviously extremely proud of him but it’s completely nerve-wracking as well!”
We’re looking forward to seeing Ben and Anna at the final, which will be held at the Language Show next Friday.
Ben’s even made the local paper!
Are there any other semi-finalists out there who’d like to share their JLC story?