Today, we celebrate European Day of Languages. This day was founded by the Council of Europe on 26 September 2001 to promote awareness of the importance of language learning and protecting linguistic heritage.
As Languages Adviser for Jersey Education, I support schools to promote a range of languages. Research already demonstrates the linguistic, cognitive and social benefits of the ability to speak more than one language.
Maintaining our French links
Being so close to France, Jersey pupils have always benefitted from many opportunities to put their French learning into practice. Over the last year, we’ve continued to strengthen our existing relationships with France, and create new opportunities for students throughout their education.
All students in Year 5 already take part in the French Experience, which means that they have an intensive boost to their learning of French by recapping key high frequency words. To support this, we’ve provided more training for French teachers, and more resources. We’re also working with primary schools to help them re-establish links with their partner schools in France.
These partnerships provide the opportunity to experience different cultures first hand, share joint projects and, of course, practice their language skills.
Le Rocquier school has partnered with Collège Malraux in Granville so that more than 100 French pupils were able to visit Le Rocquier in June. Other schools have visited partner schools in Paris and St Malo among other destinations.
The Minister for Children and Education, Deputy Inna Gardiner, has renewed our agreement with Caen University and the Education Department. This will enable students to continue studying World and English language courses in Caen.
Supporting students’ home language
An estimated 27% of Jersey’s student speak English as an Additional Language. A big part of our work centres around ways to strengthen language development including English as an Additional Language, whilst also promoting the benefits of learning more than one language in general.
Over a quarter of our school population are working in at least two languages and we should acknowledge and celebrate that. We are providing more support and coaching for teachers at schools with a high number of multilingual learners, to increase awareness of and capability to provide excellence in teaching for multilingual learners.
But we are also providing more chances for all pupils to learn some of our more-commonly spoken languages, from Year 1 (Rouge Bouillon), through after-school lessons (in partnership with the Institut Camões) to GCSE Polish (all schools.)
Our multilingual learners have also demonstrated their abilities on an international stage. In May, I visited Lisbon with pupils from Le Rocquier school who had an amazing opportunity to speak at the Portuguese Youth Parliament.
Supporting Jersey’s native language
We also continue to support Jersey’s native language by giving students more chance to learn the language. This has paid off: in February this year, the number of people learning Jèrriais outpaced the number of native speakers (estimated to be 500).
For this year’s Corn Riots Festival, Year 4 pupils from Springfield school and St Peter’s school choir will perform the Jèrriais song J’allons Sauver Not’ Langue (We’re Going to Save Our Language) in the Royal Square on Saturday, 30 September.
As I said at the beginning, the social, linguistic, and cognitive benefits to learning languages are beyond dispute: we must now turn to how we value and acknowledge those skills within our community and beyond.