The Scottish Government has committed to every child learning a second language at the age of 5. Alongside this, they’ll learn an additional language in P5, which means children will know 3 languages by the time they leave school. It’s called the 1+2 policy and we think it’s a great pledge, as there are so many reasons why children should learn another language.
Increase their skills
Earlier this week an article came out stating that ‘bilingual babies are smarter’. Growing up learning or hearing a second language helps to increase their learning capabilities including problem solving and memory. This means not only do children benefit from knowing a second language; it also helps them improve across all other subjects that they’re learning.
This may seem like extreme forward planning, but as the world continues to internationalise, employers are looking to their potential employees for language skills. Business is conducted worldwide and the need to understand and communicate with other cultures is massive. Having the ability to learn a language at a young age is an excellent skill to have.
Secondary schools in the UK teach a foreign language in years 7 to 9, with it being optional for students to take a language at GCSE. Starting languages in primary schools could create the enthusiasm needed to help with the uptake of GCSE and A-level languages. It can help to show students that languages aren’t necessarily a risky option at GCSE/A-level, instead they are fun and there are ways that you can learn a language and do well with it!
Primary schools that have been a part of the Junior Language Challenge have found children love to learn languages. Those that get to the final of the challenge have had the chance to learn three new languages; many of them have chosen to enter again the year after too!
There are such a large variety of cultures in the UK, in one primary school there are 20 different languages spoken. Not one of these speak English as a first language, so equipping children with the skills to learn a language will make it easier for them to pick up English and communicate with each other.
In 2012 the European Commission report found only 9% of English students were reaching ‘independent learner’ level when it came to languages. This is tiny compared to Sweden’s 82% level; the UK is actually joint bottom when it comes to learning foreign languages. In Luxembourg children are offered the chance to learn 3 languages during their time at school. Clearly learning a language is an area the UK needs to invest in more – and Scotland are leading the way!
Today’s guest post is by Ed, who’s taking part in our uTalk Challenge. After successfully completing uTalk Japanese in January, Ed’s turned his attention to Welsh for February. Here he explains why learning a language is important for everyone, regardless of age.
I am a retired IT Manager aged 66 years. I am married with two grown up sons, one married with two children. My wife still works so I am one of these modern ‘house husbands’, which is fine with me. Other than gardening, ironing, shopping, cooking and cleaning (I don’t do much of the latter), I play golf, help with a local amateur dramatic society (treasurer and occasional performer), sing in our church choir, and keep fit.
Since grammar school I have always been interested in languages and linguistics. I put this down to having had a very good French teacher and an inclination towards role play, hence the amateur dramatics. I also did German at Grammar School, and did Latin ‘O’ level in one year, which I really enjoyed.
In 1970 I travelled overland to India and learn some Turkish and Farsi to help me along the way. Many years later I worked in Dubai for a while and learnt some Arabic. Over the years I have picked up some Italian and Spanish in relation to holidays.
When the opportunity to join the uTalk Challenge came along it seemed the perfect way to indulge my linguistic interests and to “stimulate the little grey cells” and slow down the aging process.
Four years ago my wife and I visited Japan for the Cherry Blossom Festival and I learnt some Japanese. That came in very handy as English wasn’t as widely spoken as I had thought it would be. We loved the country and the people and I found the language interesting, hence my choice of Japanese for my first month.
I think the uTalk Challenge offers a unique opportunity to try out a number of languages that are completely different from English and Indo-European languages in general. It’s a great mental exercise for any one, not just for someone my age. It also means that you can learn something of the language of a country when going on holiday, something I believe shows respect for the people and their culture, and enhances your experience. Better than just buying a phrase book, it allows you to hear the pronunciation by native speakers. You can, as I have done, download the extra topics and choose which one you want to study. You have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain.
The Junior Language Challenge 2015 may be over, but we’re already thinking about next year’s competition. In 2016, we’d love to double the number of children taking part from 1,100 to 2,200, and raise even more money for our brilliant charity, onebillion.
Every year, we’re blown away by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by children, parents and teachers. 2015 was no exception, as you can see from our brand new video, made at this year’s final.
Please help us make next year’s competition our biggest and best yet, by sharing the video with friends and colleagues across the UK. Thank you!
But how does it feel to take part in the competition? Today we’re sharing runner-up Aalaya Sanjeeva’s story, which begins three years ago…
I started JLC when I was in Year 3. In the first year, when I got through to my first JLC finals, I did not make it to the final 12 after the heats. However, just getting into the finals was a fantastic experience and I just had to do it again the following year. In the second year, I worked really hard and made to the final 12 but not the top 3. This year, my friend Nithya and I worked our way through to the finals and we both did really well to get into the top 18. It felt so great and seriously nerve wracking while we were playing, when I came second I could not believe it (I still can’t believe it).
I would recommend entering JLC as the whole experience is a lot of FUN and besides, learning languages is an important skill, it helps you communicate better when you go to foreign countries and also since you know where the money is going and what it is helping with (onebillion), it inspires you and makes you work even harder for it! Over the years, I have seen the videos of a school classroom built in Malawi and happy children learning to read and learn maths in their native language and progressing quite well. It makes you happy to see their smiles when they get the stars on the iPad.
I also remember Martha Payne, a girl not much older than us, who handed out the prizes during JLC 2013 – her story, ‘Martha, Meals and Malawi‘ was amazing and really inspiring and touching!
I had great fun learning all the 9 languages over the last 3 years 🙂 Thank you, team JLC for the wonderful opportunity!
Aalaya’s parents, Sanjeeva and Priya
We have had an amazing experience learning so many languages over the last 3 years, it has instilled in Aalaya a love of languages that will stay with her for life and the steadfastness of effort that was required was also something wonderful to see in all the kids who have done multiple rounds. Plus she has had tons of fun, going to the semi-finals and finals – looking forward to the special journey to London Olympia with her teachers Mrs Gliniecka & Mrs Guest and schoolmate Nithya, the exposure to the huge language show opening up the wonderful world of linguistics and last but not least, those marvellous goody bags – all part of a wonderful package for a young child 🙂
Your team (Liz, Franco and others) and Richard Howeson are amazing and inspirational people – the happiness and camaraderie and the genuine passion in what you do is so evident every year! Richard, especially, with his vision for onebillion, has been so instrumental to all this and much more. The progress we saw unfolding with EuroTalk and onebillion was heart-warming, it gives a lot of hope for the future. We hope and pray that onebillion will achieve the goal for which it was founded and will try supporting it by encouraging more children to join the competition every year!
Some learning stays for life! Aalaya has been very inspired by the wonderful initiatives she has witnessed and this in turn with similar other experiences will help her grow as a responsible person.
THANK YOU again and keep up the good work!
Two ever grateful parents! 🙂
If you’d like to know more about the Junior Language Challenge, or you’re thinking of entering next year, please do feel free to contact us at email@example.com or visit eurotalk.com/jlc, where you can sign up to join the mailing list and be first to know all the details of the 2016 competition.
Here at EuroTalk we love hearing feedback from participants of the Junior Language Challenge! So when runner-up Aalaya Sanjeeva’s teacher Jackie Gliniecka from The Hawthorns School sent us this wonderful message about how she’s found being involved in the competition over the years, we had to share it with you 🙂
10 years ago, in 2005, we received a flyer from EuroTalk telling us about this competition, and we encouraged the children to enter it. It was an exciting adventure and we have repeated the experience every year since.
I remember so clearly, when we reached the semi-finals and I met Dick Howeson for the first time. His passion for languages and education, together with his compassion and drive to change the world, completely bowled me over; when talking about the competition to anyone and everyone who stands still for long enough to listen, I feel compelled to try and include a description of Dick. The best I can manage, to convey his wonderful energy, enthusiasm and gentle treatment of these young children combined with the fantastic difference that he encourages them all to make in the world, is a sort of cross between a kindly mad professor and a true saint! And what a fantastic team he has built up around him, too; Liz, who is always there to answer all queries in an incredibly efficient and kindly way so as to not scare the teachers and parents; Franco, who has the unenviable task of running the semi-finals and the finals with a rod of iron, yet maintaining a kindly, gentle, friendly demeanour so as not to scare the children; and countless others who make taking part in this competition a real joy.
Over the years, so many of my pupils have benefitted in so many ways from this wonderful competition; not only do they get the chance to try lots of different languages, thereby deepening their general knowledge of language and developing language learning strategies, but also it opens windows onto the world, helping to turn them into good global citizens, sowing the seeds that will encourage them, like Dick, to make a difference in the world. It is all done in such a gentle, fun way, encouraging independent learning, allowing the children to push themselves as far as they want to and at the same time helping the amazing work of the charities that the JLC support.
Aalaya has entered this competition 3 years in a row and has made the final each time. She was ecstatically happy to have come second this year and the whole school is so proud of her. This competition requires so much more than just the ability to acquire huge amounts of language in a very short space of time; you need a brilliant memory, a very cool head, nerves of steel, the ability to stay calm and focused and the faith to persevere under extreme pressure. What a brilliant set of skills to develop, and, although Aalaya has all these skills in bucketfuls, it has been so rewarding for me to see her develop and hone them enable her to achieve such a high standard in your competition.
The great thing is, though, as Dick always tells them, just to have entered makes them winners because of the good they are doing for others and the fun they have along the way!
Look out for next week’s blog post to find out what second place finalist Aalaya and her mum Priya think about the Junior Language Challenge!
If you were part of the Junior Language Challenge in 2015 – or any previous year – and you’d like to share your story, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org; we love hearing from our JLCers 🙂