Intercultural understanding – Mother’s Day

One of the recommendations of the 2011 Ofsted Languages specific report Achievement and Challenge was that secondary schools should “make more use of authentic materials to help develop students’ language skills and their intercultural understanding” (p 8. Modern Languages – Achievement and Challenge 2007 – 2010, Ofsted,  January 2011).  This means that we need to think actively about how we can embed the intercultural dimension of language learning into our schemes of learning.

With Mothering  Sunday in the UK falling on the 4th Sunday in Lent (usually in March) it’s easy to overlook the fact that most other countries observe this at a different time in the year.  In many countries Mother’s day is observed in May; first Sunday in Spain and Portugal, 2nd Sunday in Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and the final Sunday in France, although if Pentecost falls on this Sunday, then Mother’s day is pushed back to the first Sunday in June, which happens to be the case in 2012.

Looking at Mother’s day in the target language country can be exploited in a number of ways:

  • It fits in very nicely with the topic of shopping so pupils could look at internet sites in the target language promoting Mother’s day gifts, such as this one in German and this one in French.
  • A simple starter would be to cut and paste the descriptions and images of a number of gifts from such a site and get the pupils to order the pictures in price order.
  • Grammar points such as direct and indirect objects and/or pronouns, and the dative and accusative cases in German can be introduced.
  • It is a good opportunity to help students to develop their reading skills and language learning strategies by exposing them to some authentic materials. Simple texts about Mother’s day in the target language country and the UK can be found through an online search – try looking through search engines specifically geared towards children (such as die blinde Kuh in German) – which can be used to make comparisons about the TL country and their home country, perhaps in the form of a venn diagram.
  • Pupils could look at instructions in the target language for making a Mother’s day gift – could be used to introduce the imperative.  There are ideas in French on the Tête à modeler site or on this German site.
  • There are any number of  songs (and accompanying videos) on this theme on Youtube which can be exploited either as texts or for pronunciation practice.
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