By Mirjam Berghuis, Head of Modern Languages
Learning a new language has never come easily. I was just lucky; my parents immigrated to Canada when I was 5, forcing me out of my Dutch environment into an English one. Learning French was a whole different matter. I learned it in a classroom and the teacher was a bit of a traditionalist. We studied verb charts, filled in the blanks, memorized lists of words but did little in the way of authentic communicating.
As members of an international community, we have all had some experience with learning a new language. When we go about it ourselves, we focus on what we need to immediately. We learn: how to get somewhere in a tax, how to introduce ourselves, how to ask basic questions, count, and talk about the things that matter to us. Real-world relevance. Fortunately, language acquisition classes have evolved and now embrace this philosophy.
The Phase 1 French class spent a quarter learning about the home. In order to make it relevant, they were working towards being able to sell a house to a client. An ad was posted by a client regarding the house of his dreams: a small garden, a large living room and a special place to read. In order to explore the idea “My audience determines what I create” students created model homes to sell to their prospective client. Each child took on the role of real-estate agent to try to convince the client that their house was best.
It turns out that Grade 6 students are quite good at swaying a prospective buyer. While each home had one element that did not meet the buyer’s needs, our a gents were able to turn the negative into a positive. Despite their limited time in French class, students were able to talk about their house in a positive manner, making it marketable. Each real-estate agent presented their creation through careful word choice and good descriptive language. In the end, each home had the potential to make a new family happy.