A virtual teach meet of heritage language teachers in Ireland
This teach meet brings together professionals involved in the teaching of complementary schools/Saturday or Sunday Schools, so those who teach heritage languages outside the formal education system in Ireland. The goal of this network is to support each other, share ideas and resources and to get inspired by the practice of others.
During the school closures due to Covid-19 these meetings will happen online and they will focus on delivering heritage language education via online channels.
A link to an online meeting will be sent to those who register for the event.
Register here: www.eventbrite.ie
The second conference on heritage language education in Ireland hosted by Mother Tongues took place on 2nd November 2019 in the Teachers’ Club.
It was a very inspiring event, filled with informative talks and presentations of projects as well as hands-on workshops on teaching techniques. We hosted over 60 teachers and representatives of complementary schools based in Ireland. Some of the languages of the attendees included Lithuanian, Polish, Tamil, Dutch, Mandarin Chinese, Croatian, Russian, Portuguese, Italian and French.
This conference, now in its second year, provides the opportunity for teachers to network, share experiences and upskill. Teaching heritage languages requires an incredible amount of dedication and creativity, as it consists of teaching language and literacy skills to children who often already have fluency in the language because they use it at home. It is different from teaching a first language, and it is different from teaching a second language, too! The real challenge that all teachers share lies in the diversity of skills of the students. In addition, children attend these classes outside of normal school hours, and teachers need to keep them motivated and passionate about the “extra work” required to develop strong literacy skills in the heritage language. Most of the teachers working at the weekend to support heritage languages do so because they love teaching and they are keen to children link to their heritage through language. Many of them teach on a voluntary basis and do so out of passion for their language and for children.
At Mother Tongues we know that heritage language teachers need ongoing support
, so we have introduced a membership
scheme which allows teachers to participate in three professional development sessions throughout the year. By becoming members of the heritage language schools network, teachers and schools join a group of like-minded people who are keen to network, upskill and share ideas and resources for heritage language teaching.
All information about this new initiative you can visit mothertongues.ie/for-heritage-language-schools
For many families, Summer is the time for giving their home language a boost. Children are out of school and often the Summer is the time to spend with the extended family, in Ireland or abroad. Many parents see a significant improvement in their children’s language skills after they spend time immersed in the heritage language both in Ireland and abroad.
It’s now time to go back to school and to the usual routines. So how can parents continue to support the development of the heritage language with the limited time and resources available?
Here are three key tips I have collected from parents over the years:
Keep speaking your mother tongue to your child as often as possible, even if it seems easier to switch to English.
For many parents it is easy to speak their own mother tongue when they are on holidays in their country of origin and they have many people to talk to, but they may find it more difficult to keep it up if they are in Ireland surrounded by English speakers. Remind yourself that it is important to continue practising oral language skills and even if your child responds in English, being exposed to your language will keep the language active in the child’s mind and alive in your home.
Read books and tell bedtime stories in your mother tongue.
Reading is a fun activity that you can share with your child. To find free books in your language, try to search the library catalogue here. Enter a keyword such as “picture books” and select the language of choice. The book can be ordered online and sent for free to your local library, anywhere in Ireland.
You can try out different techniques to make reading together enjoyable for both of you. For parents who have small amounts of time to spend with their children, reading together and telling each other stories can be a wonderful opportunity to bond. Remove all distractions and get stuck into it!
To make the most of reading to your child in your mother tongue, ask questions and encourage your child to interact with the book. This will help the child’s ability to understand the story and to learn new words. Ask younger children to point and give them easy tasks to interact with the book. Older children (primary school age) also like it when the parents read books or tell stories to them. Audiobooks are great too, but the great advantage of sharing a book is the possibility to ask questions and learn new words together, and this is great for the child’s oral language skills.
Find your tribe
“Home languages” are called so because often their use is confined to the home. But it doesn’t have to be so! It is important for children to use language with a range of people to develop competence but also to see that it is useful and enjoyable. Children also get a great confidence boost when they see that there are many other people in Ireland who speak the same language as their parents. If you want to meet families who can help you on the journey to bilingualism Mother Tongues can help you. Our initiative Talk to me in… has only started in early 2019, but many families have already taken part in these informal meetups in Croatian, Swedish, Italian, German and French. To organise a Talk to me in… just choose a place and a time and send them via our contact form. We advertise the meet up for you, so you can “find your tribe” in your local area.
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