Language Learning at Cologne International School
Live Life, Love Language Learning at International Secondary School
“What’s she saying?”
“I don’t get it!”
This was the standard reaction on the first day of French class in some of the other schools where I have taught. As a language teacher, I like to immerse my students in the language, even on the first day. Many students cannot handle the transition. They have always relied on hearing and understanding every single word and when they don’t, they become very frustrated.
But not here.
Language learning at a different level
For the past few years, I have had the privilege of introducing French to students in the International Secondary School. The students here are not afraid when I walk in speaking nothing but French. They know to listen not only with their ears but also with their eyes and their brains.
After four years at our bilingual primary school, they are used to filling in what they do not understand by observing body language or by interpreting context clues. When I pointed to myself and said my name, students knew that I was introducing myself. Some are even brave enough to introduce themselves in French on the first day.
Many of our students come to us as little language learning experts. And for those who are new to our school or who need a little extra help, we are committed to supporting our students’ language development. Studies show that it is possible to speak a new language well in only two years, but that writing skills may take anywhere from six to ten years to develop fully.
Useful tips on language learning
Here are just a few things we are doing in the classroom to support language development, many of which, can also be done at home:
- Whenever you get to a difficult spelling, explain how you learned the word such as, “I always remember that principal is a person because of the pal at the end.” Or, “I remember what memento means because it is like memory, a memory you take with you.”
- Break up long words: dis-ap-pear-ing.
- Highlight all the nouns or verbs in a text or have the students do so in their own writing to check for word variety.
- Identify the key words in each unit and find ways for the students to study these words. Studies show that a student needs to interact with a new word at least 10 times before truly learning it. This means that just copying down the definition of a new word is not enough. Students should hear how the word is used in different contexts, notice the different forms of the word such as conjugation changes, even drawing the word, and using it in their own example sentences can all help students improve their vocabulary.
In my French classes, I daily support the school’s mission statement. It opens a new level of language learning and perception to our students – learning with fun, motivation and showing great results. Live life, love language learning!
Learn more about CIS/IFK mission and vision statement.
Cherie Parenteau, International Secondary School