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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
by Anna Fawcett
My children, Ben, Josh and Saskia, have all taken part in EuroTalk’s Junior Language Challenge. Ben was first – introduced to it by their language teacher, Mrs Susannah Stockton at their school, Oakwood Prep School in Chichester. Ben really embraced it and managed to win his semi-final… although this was bittersweet, as it meant we had to fly back early from a family holiday in Disney World, just so he could compete in the final in London. It was a great experience for him and well worth it. He reminisces about finishing just one frustrating point away from the prizes! However, coming from a family of non-linguists he learnt a valuable lesson: it was possible to learn any language – even Kazakh – and what’s more it could even be fun! He loved the experience and is now in year 9 studying three languages. I honestly do not think he would have chosen to do so many languages without EuroTalk.
Then came Josh! He was determined to equal his brother, and worked hard to qualify as Ben had done before him. Josh got through the preliminary rounds of Spanish and then Greek in the semi-finals to qualify for the finals in London. Josh, like Ben, enjoyed the whole experience and is now studying two languages at his senior school.
No pressure for Saskia then! The youngest and final Fawcett sibling to enter the JLC, she has been anxious from the start; how could she not do something her brothers had done? I was keen for her to have a go, as I knew the longer term benefits of realising languages are friends, not foes. Saskia sailed through the first round and qualified in the Mandarin semi-finals in second place. She is now learning Arabic for this year’s final, and was delighted and relieved to continue the Fawcett finalist tradition!
The worst part of the competition for me is without doubt the live scoreboard, continually changing as each child answers questions. This time around, I have learnt that I have to be in the room as support for Saskia, but if I concentrate on a book in my lap I can avoid looking at the live scores!
As for me, I have gone from failing French O’Level, too many years ago to mention, to supporting my children learning 12 different languages in 5 years. My name is down at the local college to take up French again, and this time to crack it! EuroTalk and the JLC has been a mixture of emotions for us all: frustration, laughter, sweat, tears and a huge sense of success and achievement for all three of the children. More importantly, it has eradicated the fear of a new and often relatively unknown language and therefore culture.
If you’re a regular follower, you’ll have heard us talk in past years about the Junior Language Challenge, our annual competition for primary school children across the UK. This year’s challenge is now underway, and here’s why we want every child who’ll be aged 10 and under on 1st September 2015 to join in:
1. It makes languages fun
All parents and teachers know that children learn best when they’re enjoying themselves (as we all do – not just children!). So the JLC uses games and the competition element to make languages fun. We want every child who takes part in the JLC to come away from it with a new love of languages, and eager to continue with them as they move on to secondary school.
2. It introduces children to languages they’ve never heard of
Last year, children taking part in the competition learnt Italian, Japanese and Somali. This year, they’ll be starting with Portuguese. We like to offer exciting, different languages – because once a child knows they can learn Chichewa, suddenly French and Spanish won’t seem so daunting. And it encourages them to learn about other cultures and countries, some of which they may never have heard of before.
3. It doesn’t take up loads of teacher or parent time
We know teachers and parents are busy people. That’s why the JLC is designed to be as easy as possible to set up. We’ve even created this letter to parents, which explains what it’s all about. Everything’s done online, so once you’ve got them registered, children can login on any computer and keep learning. Our system records all the scores, so the only thing we need from the grown-ups once they’re up and running is encouragement!
4. It’s for charity
The JLC doesn’t just benefit the children who take part; it also raises money for our charity, onebillion. They’re doing fantastic work creating apps to transform the education of one billion children in developing countries, and we’re proud to support them. Each child who enters the competition pays a £5 entry fee, all of which is donated to the organisation.
5. There are some great prizes on offer
The JLC champion wins a once-in-a-lifetime family holiday to Africa (our 2013 winner, Ella, wrote us this fantastic report about her trip to Malawi). There are also prizes for the runners-up – in previous years these have included iPods and cameras – and goodie bags for everyone who makes it through to round 2 and beyond, including t-shirts, pens, and other treats, as well as discounts on EuroTalk software for the children and their schools.
Registration is open now for school groups and individuals. Teachers can register their school for free, to take a look and try out the games before deciding whether to sign up any pupils.
And if you know anyone else who might be interested, please spread the word!
Good luck to everyone taking part this year. Or should we say Boa sorte 🙂