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Language learning tool to support EU-wide primary schools

One of the most significant priority areas of the EU is language learning. The European Commission and its officials have set their sights on enabling EU citizens to communicate in at least two foreign languages, to provide migrants with opportunities to learn the language of ...

One of the most significant priority areas of the EU is language learning. The European Commission and its officials have set their sights on enabling EU citizens to communicate in at least two foreign languages, to provide migrants with opportunities to learn the language of their host country, and to promote language teaching. Contributing to the success of this effort is LINGUASIGN, a new animated resource that supports the teaching of foreign languages in primary schools. Experts say the majority of primary school teachers have little or no specialist language training. LINGUASIGN will change this by providing them with the support they need. The project is backed under the EU's Socrates Lingua 2 Programme. Launched by the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK, LINGUASIGN is unique in that it uses talking and signing avatars to help educators foster primary school students' speaking and listening skills using a combination of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learning. The UEA team developed LINGUASIGN for use with children aged from 7 to 11. LINGUASIGN emerged following a three-year collaboration between French, Dutch and British schools. Native speakers provide voices for the three-dimensional (3D) animations and avatars in a series of interlinked stories. Gestures are used to reinforce language learning. One of the biggest advantages of this is that teachers need not have prior knowledge of the instructed language. The UEA team says the language is linked to the core language curriculum/metalinguistic framework being followed in European primary schools for foreign language teaching. The DVDs (digital versatile discs) are currently available in English and French, and additional languages will be added - demand permitting. The DVDs support the speaking and listening strands of current language teaching, according to the researchers. They have also developed 'taster' discs, enabling classes to try Dutch, English, French and Portuguese stories. The team says LINGUASIGN can be used to offer an introduction to a new minority language. 'The animations introduce a native speaker into the classroom which helps give confidence to generalist teachers who do not have experience of teaching a second language,' explains UEA's Professor John Glauert, the technical leader of the LINGUASIGN project. For her part, Joan Dickie, the UK education advisor for LINGUASIGN, says: 'We have assessed the new resources in a number of schools in the UK, France and Holland, and have proved to be very effective within classes; groups have developed or improved conversational languages skills within half a term and each story introduces approximately 50 new words.' Both teachers and students have enough time to repeat words and gestures that materialise in the animations; this in turn helps strengthen their learning. The users watch and listen to each animation several times during the week over half a term, for about five minutes each time. They repeat the words and actions - copying what the avatar says and does - until they are able to speak alongside the animated characters. A complete set of teacher's notes, extra classroom activities and scripts accompany each story. Commenting on her experience, Helen Keer from Sprowston Junior School in Norwich, UK, who has taken part in the appraisal of the new resources, says: 'My pupils have really enjoyed using LINGUASIGN to improve their language skills. Every time we used it they were enthusiastic and keen to join in. This is a great resource to use; it's fun, it's easy, it's effective and it's pitched just right. Non-specialist language teachers and experienced teachers alike will find LINGUASIGN a welcome addition to their existing language teaching.' Interested parties can obtain the LINGUASIGN series of DVDs online.For more information, please visit: LINGUASIGN:http://www.linguasign.com/University of East Anglia (UEA):http://www.uea.ac.uk/Education Audiovisual & Culture:http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/index_en.phpSocrates Lingua 2 Programme - click:http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/education_training_youth/general_framework/c11043_en.htm (here)EU Languages and Language Policy:http://ec.europa.eu/education/languages/languages-of-europe/index_en.htm

Countries

France, Netherlands

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