Albyn School will today (26 September) celebrate the European Day of Languages.
Mrs Lamont, Head of Modern Languages at Albyn School, on why she thinks languages are key to unlocking the world:
Language classes are rarely quiet. Whenever you walk through any modern languages department, you should find them full of life, games, laughter and engaging stories. Time spent discussing sports, music, artists, history, travel, customs and traditions in other countries is never time wasted.
Languages foster diplomacy and cross-cultural understanding. They bridge cultural gaps, promote empathy, tolerance and open-mindedness in our young people.
When it comes to the job market, learning a language checks all the boxes. Studies demonstrate that people who speak more than one language have better critical thinking skills, improved memories, better problem-solving abilities, greater creativity and multitasking capabilities.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful teamwork. The language classroom requires pupils to talk, write, read for understanding and draw inferences from texts. Good communicators are successful team players, and pupils in our modern language classrooms are taught to listen attentively and decipher social cues, skills they carry with them into their future careers and travels.
As educators, we recognise that learning a new language is a lot of hard work. At times, the complexities and seemingly contradictory rules can be discouraging. However, we always motivate our pupils to persevere, because in the journey of mastering another language, they gain a deeper understanding of their mother tongue.
Yet, despite the numerous advantages of language proficiency, languages seem to be losing their appeal in Scotland.
This year, only 505 students sat for the Higher German exam, and the number of French and German teachers has declined by more than 40%. So, what is the root of this issue? While most adults clearly see the benefits of embracing new cultures and fostering intercultural understanding, the average teenager may respond with a shrug, stating that “everyone speaks English” or that they can rely on Google Translator and, more recently, AI for translation.
Fortunately, at Albyn School the importance of learning a foreign language is all around us. If you ask Primary 1 pupils why they are learning French, their answer is simple: to speak to their French friends in their own language.
At Albyn, the TotalEnergies French School offers a hybrid curriculum for French native speakers. Families can choose either to follow Albyn School’s existing curriculum or follow a hybrid curriculum with French, History, Geography and Mathematics taught through the French language medium while other subjects are taught in English.
The benefits are not only felt by native French pupils. The beautiful sounds of the French language resonate with everyone as pupils chat to one another in the corridors between classes.
Understanding the importance of language learning starts with demonstrating that languages are all around us. We should embrace the diversity already present within our schools and foster its inclusion within class discussions. We should encourage pupils to use languages they speak at home and ask them to contribute their language and cultural knowledge to everyone.
When native or near-native speakers take pride in their bilingual abilities and have the opportunity to showcase the sounds and cultures of their heritage, we not only promote respect for our differences but also inspire our monolingual pupils to follow suit and embark on their own language-learning journey.
It is our collective responsibility to ensure that we nurture equality, diversity and inclusion within our schools, and embracing other languages is an integral part of this process. In doing so, we unlock the vast world of opportunities and connections that languages offer.