Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is it enough to speak a language to teach a language?

While attending an IBO (International Baccalaureate Organization) conference several months ago, the presenter reminded the crowd of elementary school teachers and administrators that the IBO Primary Years program has a language requirement that begins in the early elementary grades. Apparently several administrators were concerned as to where the money for such a program would come from and proceeded to offer a tip for other schools in dealing with this requirement. The suggested idea was to bring in parents who spoke the language the school wished to offer and have them teach it. They felt this would offer a supportive boost for the language minority parents and the students. The presenter felt this would be a great solution to the situation.
I was actually stunned. I could not imagine that they would consider parents to teach language classes to the children. Would they do that with the science or math program? How about we just have some parents come in and teach math to the students, then we won't have to pay a teacher. Just speaking the language is not enough. One needs to understand how language is developed and appropriate methods of teaching for various age levels. Teaching a language isn't an easy thing. It is much more challenging to handle classroom management when you are trying to speak to children in a language they don't understand.
Also, instead of boosting student's and parent's moral about the representation of their native language, they might actually discover that the administration did not care enough about their native language for it to merit a certified, experienced teacher. This sort of mentality is what continues to undermine the importance of foreign language programs in schools. Hopefully with new policies and foreign language teaching standards in place we can begin to create a change in all schools.

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