Cities are places where cultures and languages co-exist.  ‘City languages’ offers different approaches to exploring intercultural understanding through MFL teaching and learning at KS2, 3 and 4.

Key sections:

What is it about cities ~ and languages?

Cities, languages and global learning

Teaching activities

Further ideas

What is it about cities ~ and languages?

Did you know that…

  • only 30% of French speakers live in France; 
     
  • New York City is said to be the most linguistically diverse city in the world with some experts suggesting that there might be up to 800 languages spoken in the city;
     
  • London is said to have over 300 languages spoken?                                   

"Language is identity"*

This powerful statement from a Darfurian refugee living in New Jersey suggests the importance of language in people’s lives.  Language is deeply embedded within ideas of culture, family, nationality and sometimes faith.  Cities offer a meaningful and manageable geographical boundary, within which to explore factors which influence the range and dominance of the languages used by their inhabitants.

*Sources: OIF: www.francophonie.org; Listening to [and saving] the world’s languages, New York Times, April 2010; Regional Language Network London, 2008.

As people move from city to city, area to area, or country to country, languages also travel and change.  This has happened through history, and has contributed to the evolution of languages.

People living and working in Britain, and around the world, feel the effect of changes in the dominance and diversity of languages spoken in their cities.  According to UN-HABITAT,* Spanish is the second most common language in Miami, and Chinese has replaced Irish as the second language of Dublin.  The globalisation of trade, technology, social media and popular culture is leading towards the homogenisation of language, with positive and negative implications.  For example, recent interviews in English, with people involved with protest and change around the world, have meant that we have been able to hear their voices directly, without interpretation.

*Source: State of the World’s Cities report 2004/5

  • In an increasingly globalised society, what are the implications for languages?
     
  • To what extent do dominant languages reflect economic and political power? 
     
  • How do languages contribute to intercultural understanding? 
     
  • And what implications does this have for people in cities around the world?

Many communities make great efforts to keep their language and culture alive.  For example, the Polish School, Wolverhampton offers opportunities to learn to read, write and speak Polish.

Cities, languages and global learning

The Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie state that 70% of the world’s French speakers live somewhere other than France, and predict that there will be a significant increase in the number of French speakers in the world by 2050.*  This would largely be due to an increase in the population living in West Africa.  Such changes in the use of languages around the world, now and in the future, offer challenges and opportunities for us as teachers: not least in influencing decisions about which languages should be taught, and why.  What does this mean for intercultural understanding, through the teaching of languages?  How can understanding the world support language teaching, and vice versa?  

*Source: www.francophonie.org

Enabling global learning in the KS3 curriculum proposes an entitlement to global learning.  It argues that young people should experience a relevant and meaningful curriculum, which supports them to develop the sort of knowledge, understanding and skills required to be able to navigate the complexities, uncertainties and rapid technological change taking place, now and in the future.  It also suggests a range of CPD activities to support discussions with colleagues, and which teacher groups have found useful.

Teaching activities

Ideas and activities in this publication offer a starting point for exploring intercultural understanding and global learning through language teaching and learning.

Many teachers work with groups of children from a wide range of cultures, who experience a range of languages in their daily lives.   This offers an opportunity to be proud of, and celebrate our languages.  Helen Stanistreet shares an innovative approach she has developed for KS2 children in Sandwell, to explore commonality and difference through languages, in ‘I’m me and I’m proud’. [Link new pdf]

Languages connect places ~ 70% of the world’s French speakers live somewhere other than France.*  Teachers at Kings Norton Girls’ School, Birmingham used a Year 7 unit of work ‘Chez moi’ to explore commonality and difference, looking at life in Francophone cities around the world. 

*Source: www.francophonie.org

Teachers at Tile Hill Wood School, Coventry are exploring a global dimension to their ‘Content and Language Integrated Learning’ [CLIL] approach to MFL.  As a department, they have focussed on developing innovative teaching and learning ideas, [Download to come] with global learning at the heart of their MFL approach.

Further ideas

What is the relationship between globalisation and languages?  How does one impact on our understanding of the other?  ‘Global connections’ explores the impact of globalisation.

The website from the Links into Languages initiative offers a series of resources and project ideas, which include innovative approaches to intercultural understanding.

‘The danger of a single story’ is a powerful analysis of how we understand and interpret the world.  As teachers, the clip is a useful stimulus for discussion and reflection about how the stories we choose to share influence the worldviews of the young people we work with.

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