Speak the language…

It can be difficult to follow a Twitter conversation with @ToughLoveforX and co. at times.  It’s full of jargon I don’t understand, in a language invented to suit the purpose of a discussion limited to 140 characters at a time. I know that NFME is a theory of how learning works (Notice, Focus, Mull, Engage), but English is easier for me and I’ve told him so!

But… when I recently wrote on my blog about integrating ICT into the PYP , he was quick to point out that my jargon was just as incomprehensible to him as his was to me. (ICT=Information and Communications Technology. PYP = Primary Years Program of the IB). Touche. He added that such jargon would turn him off reading any further in a post. Constructive criticism well received. I’ll be more careful in future.

But I’m a second language teacher.. so it got me thinking… How quickly do learners tune out when there are words they don’t understand?

I asked my Year 5 students (11 year olds) what’s easy and what’s difficult in language learning.

There were some interesting responses…

  • The hardest thing is remembering words. The easiest is when you can connect new words with other words you already know. (Zac)
  • It’s easiest when you’re learning with others. It’s hard when you don’t have the words to say what you need to. (Matthew)
  • It’s easiest to learn through interactive games with others. Teaching yourself is challenging. (Tahnee)
  • The hardest thing is when everything you are hearing is new. What helps is having someone who knows both languages. (Gabe)
  • What makes it easier is confidence and experience, support from your teacher and other pupils. (Dean)
  • The most difficult thing is that you can’t just translate from your home language, you have to think in the other language. (Sasha)

As always, I am excited by what I can learn from my students! Maybe we should invite them to run some professional development sessions for teachers…

7 thoughts on “Speak the language…

    1. The best lesson I learned while learning another language was to NOT translate during a conversation. As Sasha said, “…you have to think in the other language.” Just let the conversation flow without the constant translating, and you’ll be surprised how much you can understand just by listening.


  1. I’m an EFL teacher working with 4th graders and in recent times I have really come to value what my students can tell me. There is much people assume about how languages can be taught/learnt in a primary school classroom but it’s always worth checking those assumptions with the kids.

    I always seek to find out what they enjoy doing and why. Perhaps more importantly though is when they tell me what they don’t like or what they find difficult and we can then act upon it.


  2. While we can be aware of our own use of jargon and perhaps limit our use of it, we need to prepare students (and ourselves) for situations where we face unknown words and phrases or even concepts. Teaching students to not be put off by the unknown and equipping them with skills that help them discover meaning is key. The digital world we are living in, while overflowing with information (both useful and otherwise), contains many useful tools such as online dictionaries and translators that can assist us with this.
    Rather than be put off by something unfamiliar or unknown, we need to be prepared to learn from these situations.


  3. I wonder how often we who are working toward change in education are turning others off by the jargon we are using. It feels too foreign to them and so they tune out all together. Hmmm….common language is important to effective communication.


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