Here’s an example of a recent Spanish session in a Speak Like A Native language club at Frith Manor Primary in Barnet, London.
The children (Year 1 -6), have only been together in this group for about eight weeks but are now used to the total immersion from the language guides (teachers). This means that from the moment they walk into the room after school, they know that every word they hear from an adult will be in Spanish. This doesn’t bother or scare any of them and they have got used to decoding the foreign language by focusing on familiar words, watching what their peers do, using the context and being prepared to have a go.
Over the last couple of months they’ve played games, completed tasks and got involved in a variety of activities. The motivating part of a Speak Like A Native session is that the activity itself is always more important than the language input. This means that if the children are playing Twister, having a laugh and trying to win will always be the aim. We don’t want children to develop that adult fear of languages which is common to many of us; I am an outsider because I don’t understand EVERYTHING.
For this reason we encourage communication but we don’t insist it is in Spanish (or whatever the target language of the club is). This allows the kids to take instruction in Spanish but to reply to the language guide and discuss with the other children in English. As you can imagine, this immediately removes frustration as they get on with the game, activity or task.
Without fear or frustration, as the children are decoding what they hear, they also have the confidence to start throwing in Spanish words and trying to use the new language. Unlike “traditional” language teaching, we actively encourage them to speak in a combination of both languages. It’s part of the Speak Like A Native method that works so well because it feels natural.
The children have the need to communicate to take part and rather than feel frustrated that they can’t say what they feel because they don’t know enough Spanish, are very proud as they add the “foreign” words they know whenever it is appropriate.
In the most recent session, the children all made lists of whatever Spanish words they could remember from the last couple of months. They then worked in small groups to tell stories in Spanglish. Everyone had something to say and everyone felt they were actually using Spanish and communicating. This is half the battle!
The simple psychological shift that we have addressed is YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT TILL YOU ARE REALLY GOOD AT A FOREIGN LANGUAGE BEFORE YOU CAN USE IT TO COMMUNICATE.
At Speak Like A Native, the children should always say exactly what they want to say and bit by bit use more and more of the target language.
So, a child who adds one Spanish word to an English sentence is starting to successfully communicate in a new language. It’s that simple!
This way they grow up without language learning being about a gap in knowledge that you can never really fill… much better to view languages as something we use to communicate with others and have fun at the same time!
Speak Like A Native