Building bridges through language learning

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For the European Day of Languages, our TCT for languages, Simon Piesse, explores his personal passion for communication and the ever-renewed importance of language learning in schools.

My name is Simon Piesse and I am delighted to be the new Trust Consultant Teacher (TCT) for Languages ​​and Classics at GDST.

I have taught French and Spanish in secondary schools since graduating from Oxford University. I was 13 when I first went to Spain, to the Andalusian city of Cordoba. I remember visiting the ‘Puente Romano’, across the Guadalquivir river, built by the Romans in the 1st century BC, rebuilt by the Moors and later subsumed into the first modern Catholic city. Here began my appreciation of the multi-layered nature of Spanish and the significant impact of Roman civilization on Spanish, indeed all Romance languages.

Why is language learning so important?

And it’s not just the physical bridges that are important. Language learning builds metaphorical bridges between diverse people, places, ideas, cultures and allows us to understand, and ultimately improve, our human condition.

However, as I write this, the chasms rather than the bridges seem to be getting wider and wider. The causes? Conflicts, such as the current war between Russia and Ukraine, but also, just as damaging in the longer term, a growing and seemingly inexorable shrinking of cultural and linguistic horizons. We need look no further than here in the UK, where language adoption at GCSE continues to wane. At A level This summer, according to the British Council’s latest language trends report, the number of pupils enrolled in German A level nationally was equivalent to the total number of pupils at a single major secondary school (2,500). This effect ripples upwards: university language departments are closing, while the UK economy continues to lose billions of pounds in potential exchange due to the chronic deficit of language skills in its workforce, exacerbated by the effects of Brexit.

Our linguistic approach at GDST

And yet, at GDST, the girls are a shining example of difference: as linguists, they achieve excellent levels of fluency in a wide range of languages, from Latin and Greek to French and German. , Italian and Mandarin. They are taught by passionate specialists, using methods combining grammatical rigor and the latest immersive techniques. These include the innovative use of digital technologies and regular contact with native speakers. Travel and exchanges (both virtual and face-to-face) are an integral part of the program, fostering cultural awareness. Fun and authenticity come from contests (like the Linguistic Olympiad), film screenings and student assemblies. I will never forget our recent assembly on the occasion of the Fête de la Musique on June 21, during which our sixth grade linguists maturely analyzed current musical trends from around the world, before launching into a lively interpretation of “La Vida es un Carnaval”, complete with live orchestra and feather boas! GDST girls also have the opportunity to expand their global awareness and citizenship, through initiatives such as Amnesty International Youth Groupsdevelop essential life skills such as the ability to understand a hot topic, advocate for a just cause and make a difference.

Innovations and enthusiasm in the classroom

All of these efforts culminate in our celebration of language learning in March at the GDST Festival, where girls from across the GDST family come together to engage in a veritable assortment of activities. A sure favorite for the performance in a foreign language of a short play that the girls themselves imagined: the previous winning French play was centered on a girl who left her husband, fell in love with a bottle of milk!

Recognizing that the world is changing rapidly, at GDST we continue to innovate in our language offering. For example, this year, in addition to improving our use of digital technologies in the classroom, such as the use of Google Earth, we are researching how we can better value the diverse linguistic backgrounds of our daughters and develop them in a truly multilingual environment, so we can be true to our 150-year-old mission of “girls first” in the 21st century.

On September 26, our GDST girls will celebrate the European Day of Languages, as part of their fellow citizens 700 million European citizens from 46 Member States. Launched in 2001 by the European Commission, this event promotes linguistic diversity and intercultural awareness. This year’s theme is perfectly summed up by the Danish word ‘hygge’: celebrating a sense of cozy togetherness. My favorite activity, so far, has to be creating a multilingual joke book, which seems the perfect antidote to the encroaching darkness of autumn: the potential for all of us to build a beautiful bridge between nations. , across languages, while having fun In the process! What’s not to like?

Glædelig europæisk sprogdag!

Happy European Day of Languages!

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