The language of love

February 14, 2011

“I like”, “I love” – the stuff of expressing simple opinions and of course Valentine’s Day.  This can be a good opportunity to recycle a lot of high frequency vocabulary and structures within a different context.  So, not only loving and liking, but also giving, receiving and buying in past, present and future, and  using pronouns (just think about the agreement with the preceding direct object in French, or the word order rules with pronouns and nouns in German – DANPAD;  dative, then accusative for 2 nouns, accusative, then dative for 2 pronouns).  It’s also an opportunity for learners to personalise language and show independence in their language learning by using dictionaries to work out how to say something that is meaningful to them.

As ever I have been on the lookout for some suitable authentic materials, particularly video, to give a bit of cultural input to my Chinese lessons.  Valentine’s Day is not a traditional Chinese festival (their equivalent would be the Double seventh festival – Qīxī   七夕) as can be seen by the responses of the older people interviewed in this video.  However, it’s clear that with globalization some western habits have made their way East and red roses (and some of the other paraphernalia of Valentine’s Day) can now certainly be found on the streets of Beijing and other major Chinese cities.  This particular video comes from a series entitled Sexy Beijing so is unlikely to get past most schools’ filtering systems; I’ll have to rely on my Realplayer download to show excerpts in class. 

However, I’ve also found this one which is quite short and which, like the Sexy Beijing one, has English subtitles making it accessible to all learners, even at a basic level.  They can pick out words they do know and the context helps them to understand and pick up the new ones.  For a short video without commentary there is also this one which can be used as a stimulus for oral work.

Whilst scouting around for suitable videos I came across this video on how to say “I love you” in different languages.  It struck me that this could be a good video to show pupils sceptical of the value of learning languages; in fact in the past in the face of the “Why are do we have to learn French?” question I have often pointed out to pupils (often boys) that they never know who they might fall in love with and that they never know when their knowledge of a language or their language learning strategies might come in handy!

For a completely different approach to Valentine’s Day Liz Black, from Stokesley School, North Yorkshire, talked at last year’s Language World about working Valentine’s Day into a Fairtrade theme, looking at the cost and origin of ordinary roses compared to Fairtrade ones.

And a final thought – perhaps today is really the day to get our pupils speaking with a spot of speed dating in class!


WWW or the wonderful world of Wordle

April 30, 2010


The image above is a Wordle of the importance statement of the MFL  programme of study.  It is a word cloud created by a free online application at  which randomizes text and displays the words according to the frequency of the words used (the more frequent the word, the bigger the word).  It has tremendous potential for use in the classroom in terms of developing language learning and thinking skills:

  1. As a starter – to introduce new vocabulary or topic.    At a simple level pupils can be given a wordle of vocabulary or text  from a new topic area and they can work individually/ in pairs/groups to identify which words they know, which ones they can guess (cognates) and which ones they need to use dictionary skills to work out.  At advanced level learners can be give a wordle of a text which they use as a starting point for a discussion trying  to predict the context.
  2. To apply their knowledge about  language to categorise the words in the wordle.  e.g. nouns/verbs/adjectives or to classify nouns by gender.
  3. As a plenary/tool for AfL – e.g. a wordle created of TL and English words which pupils have to match up or a wordle in the TL in which they demonstrate their knowledge about language  or phonics or their ability to use language creatively.
  4. To demonstrate understanding of phonics by classifying words by their phonemes/letter strings.
  5. As a revision aid – a summary of a particular topic or context or as an aide-memoire.
  6. To help pupils develop presentation and spontaneous speaking skills.
  7. To show the results of a class survey or poll or as a display.
  8. To promote creativity – pupils are challenged to create sentences/stories etc from words on a wordle.
  9. As a tool in a listening exercise – pupils cross out the words they can identify in a spoken text.
  10. To encourage self reflection (PLTS – reflective learners) and to  improve written work – the frequency count in a wordle will highlight words that can get over used e.g. “intéressant” or “lustig”.  A  wordle can also make it easier for pupils to spot their own mistakes (e.g. in the incorrect use of accents) as it breaks up the normal order of words, thus making it less likely that they will simply gloss over their mistakes.

These are just some of the few ways in which a wordle can be used and they are dead simple to create as you can see here:

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