Xenoglossophobia: it’s the anxiety or feeling of unease that many of us may have experienced when learning a new language. It is my aspiration and aim every day to create an environment in my classroom such that none of my students ever have to know what that feels like. On the contrary, I want them to come to class excited, ready to learn and eager to experiment and try out their newly acquired language skills.
I find that before we embark on actually learning the language, building a classroom community and developing strong relationships with students is paramount, and for this I tend to revert to English, throwing in key words in French and repeating them often. I love sharing my passion for language learning with the students and don’t want to ‘put off’ any of them because French seems too hard or too boring. So the first days are dedicated to getting to know them as individuals, so that I can shape and bend the curriculum to match their needs. Comprehensible input in French grows day by day as the children’s affective filter comes down, their comfort level increases and by the end of the first week, I aim to be speaking solely in French 90% of the time.
Here is an exercise we did today, where we brainstormed what a ‘good’ language learner should do, what should look like and what they might need. It was a Chalk Talk exercise from the Project Zero Visible Thinking routines and was a nice way for students to contribute their thoughts and ideas. We discussed how it was important and valuable for language learners to make mistakes and to ‘struggle’ with learning, because that is how growth happens, and that as PYP students, we are all risk-takers, so even when we’re not sure of the answer or how it may sound, we still give it a go.