Language Learning for Global Citizenship

A new article by Judith Burns, Education reporter, BBC News, makes the case that language lessons should aim for more than phrasebook competence.

Bernice McCabe, headmistress of North London Collegiate School, argues that "[t]he best teachers represent for our pupils a cultural confidence and an outward looking perspective on the world, a world with which they will connect much more than previous generations.” Language learning needs to have an influence "[n]ot just in terms of gap years spent travelling and global companies for which they may end up working, but [opening up] a world full of new drama and music, shared concerns for the environment and political stability, the opportunities to share international experience and make friends.”

McCabe goes on to suggest, "[t]he best language teachers do not follow pre-digested workbooks aiming at functional phrasebook competence.” Rather, "[t]hey help our students understand the richness of human communication, develop the desire for self-expression and immerse themselves in other cultures.”

'Global citizens'

Mrs McCabe advocates travelling overseas to expose students "to the need to communicate in a language other than their own".

Vicky Gough, schools adviser at the British Council, adds, "[w]e need teachers who can bring the world into the classroom and help our young people to become global citizens.” She goes on to say, "[i]t's really important that we don't just teach languages in isolation, but as part of a wider cultural education. Learning a language isn't an end in itself - it's the key to understanding another culture and building important relationships with the rest of the world."

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