Language used to teach children in low- and middle-income countries becomes an urgent issue

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Libor Zajicek  Identity Verified

Local time: 12:03
English to Czech
+ ...
Subsidize evolving local languages to full-fledged medium of national life? Nov 12, 2011

Would not it be better for the African countries et caetera to develop their own languages and for the Western investors to subsidize evolving local languages to full-fledged medium of national life? I don´t know Africa very well, but in my understanding native languages don´t cover all niches of life, but their command of English and their exposure to it is not sufficient. In Europe, we have national languages, which cushion us from becoming fully "part of global economy", but we have our own economies. We know our languages good and on that base we can build knowledge of others.

 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:03
Hebrew to English
Not sure I totally agree with the article... Nov 12, 2011

A few issues:

● CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) is being spoken of as a "failed" pedagogical methodology. On the contrary, while the jury is still out, and a lot of debate is ongoing, this is a relatively new methodology (not new in itself but has recently been rebranded and rediscovered) and it has many supporters in the EFLosphere.

● "Try teaching a basic science lesson to a nine-year-old British child in French: it'll quickly become clear that this isn't an effective way to teach either science or French" ...I really don't think you can equate the opportunity for an poverty stricken African kid given the chance to learn English with your average British kid, who really doesn't see any benefit in learning French.

● "Poor families are often desperate for their children to have English-medium education and access the opportunities they see going to others"....this reiterates the last point, how many British parents are "desperate" for the child to have an education in another language? ...Tumbleweed.....

● "In many countries a large proportion of children's school dropout rates and poor performance is caused by their inability to understand the English used in class". Is it really? Or do they dropout because of local conditions? Civil unrest/Civil wars, pressure to start employment - economic realities/necessity....

● "Teachers don't have good English themselves, which stops them using interactive teaching approaches. A lack of textbooks worsens the problem". This is not just a problem in Africa, this happens the world-over. Don't see this as a uniquely African issue.

● "for several years it has been accepted that children who don't already speak a language such as English won't learn well in English-medium education". Accepted? Evidence? What about immigrant children who only learn English once they start school? (Yes they are in an immersion situation but their exposure to English is often extremely limited outside of school for their formative years). These children not only acquire English, but often go on to achieve more than their monolingual British peers.).

● "Better performance from the English language education publishing industry is vital Realistically graded, high-quality materials relevant to children's lives are needed in both international and local languages.". The EFL publishing behemoth has its flaws, but a lack or shortage of published graded high-quality young learner materials is not one of them. There is a large movement towards a more global outlook in textbooks these days, as for getting them published in local languages, this is a pipe dream. There's no profit in it, you musn't forget that publishing is all about the money. Most textbooks are entirely in English, designed with topics and issues for an international audience, but adaptable by local teachers to suit local needs.

I also think that the word "communicative" is banded around a lot in the article without too much consideration of its meaning in Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). CLIL can be comminicative, but the article's tone assumes a position of mutual exclusivity.


 

Kaspars Melkis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:03
English to Latvian
+ ...
teaching methods matter Nov 13, 2011

Ty Kendall wrote:

...I really don't think you can equate the opportunity for an poverty stricken African kid given the chance to learn English with your average British kid, who really doesn't see any benefit in learning French.


I think that the point is that bad teachers will motive no one. Children don't have the same perspective towards future benefits as adults. For them learning should be more fun and of immediate interest and good teachers can make all the difference.

Or do they dropout because of local conditions? Civil unrest/Civil wars, pressure to start employment - economic realities/necessity....


It is not that the whole Africa is under perpetual war and civil unrest. In most places the living conditions may be quite dire by westerner's perspective but in general they are stable and sufficient for continuing basic education. If the school is dull the children be more likely to drop out for whatever reason.

This is not just a problem in Africa, this happens the world-over. Don't see this as a uniquely African issue.


Absolutely. The difference is, as you mentioned, that British (and many other Western) children will not be limited if they don't learn a second language so it is not an issue for them or their parents.

Yes they are in an immersion situation but their exposure to English is often extremely limited outside of school for their formative years). These children not only acquire English, but often go on to achieve more than their monolingual British peers.).


I think that even immigrant children in the UK have a lot of exposure to proper English during school years. They surely watch TV, play with other children etc.

I am not an expert but my personal experience was quite interesting. I had difficulties learning Russian at school that was mandatory in Latvia at the time. After some time I did not understand much what was going on in the classroom and I simply tuned out. It is worth noting that most other children had no such problems with Russian. They mostly learned by watching Russian TV and playing with Russian speaking children on the street. I didn't have such an exposure and my only learning practice was the classroom. Only later I realized how useless were those teaching methods. It was when I discovered that with better methods learning languages can be both fun and profit.icon_smile.gif I never thought that translation will be my future occupation and I concentrated on learning sciences instead. That knowledge turned out quite useful when I started my translation career.

[Edited at 2011-11-13 16:16 GMT]


 


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Language used to teach children in low- and middle-income countries becomes an urgent issue

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