Friday, 21 July 2017

Pros and Cons of Weekend Language Schools

School classroom clipart

As you may know, we are a multilingual family. My husband speaks Turkish and two Kurdish languages (Zazaki and Kurmanji) and my parents speak Polish. As a Muslim family, learning Arabic is also important. I would like my children to understand the language of the Quran, not just recite it as many people do. Also, as one of the top ten most spoken languages in the world, Arabic is also important from a political and social point of view. 

With so many languages we simply cannot learn them all. We have decided to concentrate on teaching the children Arabic and Turkish as minority languages; our majority language, the language of the society in which we live, being English. 

It can be hard to teach your child a minority language so parents in this position, like us, are often looking for ways to assist their child's language learning skills. Weekend language schools can seem a good solution to this common issue. But are they really? Read on to find out.




Pros

Listening to other adults speaking the minority language

This is extremely important. You may be in the situation where one or both parents speak the minority language at home, however, do not underestimate the importance of your child hearing the minority language from other people. No two people speak exactly alike, therefore, it is necessary for your child to hear the language from as many different people as possible in order for them to pick up on the variations in the language.

Interacting with other children learning the minority language

They can interact with other children who use the minority language and can practise their speaking and listening skills. They may find it more comfortable to practise the language with others the same age as them, rather than adults. Again, they will be listening to variations in the language which will make them familiar with the nuances of it.

Socialising with other children of the same cultural background

Chances are the language they are learning is one from their cultural background. This means by going to the language school they will be mixing with other children of the same cultural background as them. This will make them feel part of the community.


Cheaper than one to one lessons

Private lessons can be very expensive. If you cannot afford to splash out on one to one lessons then a weekend language school is a good option. Your child will be exposed to the language for a fraction of the cost.



Cons

Once a week is not enough

Language learning involves a lot of time and devotion which means that attending a class once a week is, sadly, rarely enough. Firstly, with such a big gap between classes, it can be easy for the child to forget what he/she has learnt the previous week. Ideally, studying a language a couple of times a week is better because it keeps the language fresh in their mind. Short lessons a couple of times a week work best. 


A lot of unqualified teachers

At every language school I have been to, the amount of unqualified teachers is very high. Some have no qualified teachers. Why are qualified teachers important? Because they have been trained to plan and deliver classes. They know how to adapt lesson plans to suit the students. They know how to manage pupil behaviour. They know how to explain certain concepts in a clear and concise way.

Large class sizes

If you are living in an area with a large number of children learning the language but few schools or classes available, this can lead to very large class sizes. This means your child will not be given the amount of attention they need to learn it accurately.


May use backward teaching methods

Sometimes you will find that the teachers come from a culture with teaching methods you may find awkward or backwards. For example, they may have an old fashioned style of teaching where they do lots of tests and exams. If this is the case, they will spend more time using textbooks and revision, and perhaps less time speaking and listening, in order to work towards these goals.

They may have the mentality that learning means sitting at the desk doing reading and writing. They may not realise how practical and fun lessons can be. They may not understand how interactive, practical lessons can be much more meaningful for the child, meaning they are more likely to learn more and remember what they have learnt. 

What is the solution?

Weekend schools can be great, some better than others. My own children go to language schools; Arabic on a Saturday and Turkish on a Sunday. This may sound like a lot, and it would be too much if your children go to school during weekdays, but my children are home educated so we can afford the time spent at language schools at the weekends.

Weekend language schools can be so important for socialisation with other children of the same linguistic and cultural background, as well as for hearing the subtle nuances of the language. However, do remember that it is rarely enough. Therefore, you will need to supplement these weekend classes with extra learning throughout the week. I will write another article soon with details on how you can do this.

Do your children attend language schools at the weekend? How do you feel about them?

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