PEOPLE WITH PHYSICAL DISABILITIES
PEOPLE WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES
PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
LEARNERS IN PRISON
PEOPLE LIVING IN DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES
YOUNG PEOPLE OVERCOMING DISADVANTAGE
PEOPLE SEEKING EMPLOYMENT
Spanish at the CCI Arles, France
SETTING UP THE GROUP
This was a mixed group that consisted of long-term unemployed people, women living in difficult situations and retired people with minimal financial resources. Their ages varied between 18 – 80 years old.
There were 12 participants, who met for a half a day per week at the premises of the CFC in Arles.
The group was formed from those who responded to a press campaign in the district of Arles. This included putting a weekly advertisements in the free newspaper with an invitation to our targeted public to come and join our language activities, and leafleting private houses, local organizations, supermarkets and bakeries. Several local organizations were also contacted directly and they referred interested people to us.
The language taught was Spanish. This area of France has many links with Spanish, through geographical proximity, a large number of Spanish immigrants and many aspects of shared culture, so there was interest in the language. A number of learners had links with Spanish speaking countries. For example C decided to study Spanish because he had a son living in Nicaragua and a great grandson there with whom he could not communicate.
The aim of working with the group was to enjoy learning Spanish and to discover the country and its culture.
Our teacher was a native Spanish speaker with a background as a professional language teacher for many years; he has taught Spanish in several organizations and several countries.
Part of the group was established after the Open Day for the European Day of Languages. The rest of the participants enrolled as a result of reading the ads in the newspapers, and the posters and brochures all over the city.
PLANNING THE CURRICULUM
It was a big challenge for us to prepare the staff and have them change their traditional methods to new innovative methods that carry out the objectives of the Allegro project.
At the beginning our teachers (for the 3 languages that we target) met once a week with the coordinator and the manager of the project to work on the methods and the pedagogy of the activities.
Afterwards the teachers continued to meet together once a week alone in order to work on the activities. These meeting were very valuable for mutual support and exchange of ideas. The English teacher had taken particular interest in new approaches to the learners and was able to influence the other teachers, through, for example, offering to share her teaching resources, such as board games, with them.
Our activities involved several methods that were understood and agreed by the teachers and were used consistently.
• Group language activities: a classic language activity carried out by the whole group together, by learning some grammar, vocabulary, and structure of the language. These activities involve interaction between the participants and the teacher and between the participants themselves.
• Individual language activities carried out on an individual level in the language studied. This time is very important for the evaluation of each participant, as well as the development of each one of them towards greater competence in the language.
• This individual work leads to a personal goal, in order to repeat what the person has already learned, to practice it, and of course to perfect it. It is carried out using different materials depending on the level; it can also permit a workshop format.
• Cultural method: The immersion in an environment that is identified according to the country of the language learned. When the participant ‘enters this place’, he feels that he has left France and entered Spain, where some Spanish food specialties are available to be tasted. In addition posters from different cities in Italy are displayed and music and some information about Spanish on the television are available.
• This method allows the participant to enter another dimension related to the language, which encourages better learning.
• It also allows a new cultural aspect related to Spain (regions, different local languages, food specialties, traditional music, tourist sights, etc) to be studied each week.
Various materials were used for the language and the cultural activities, such as maps of the regions and the country, different CD’s for Spanish music, different video cassettes about the different parts of Spain, Spanish newspapers, posters, brochures, Spanish food etc.)
The teacher was initially dubious about the value of trying a new approach to learning, but by the time of the manager’s visit to Arles in June 2004, he readily admitted, “I was surprised how well it worked.”
DURATION OF THE ACTIVITIES
The duration of the activities was 3 months of the basis of one half a day per week, which makes a total of 30 hours per group.
As well as developing their language skills the learners enjoyed the social contact. The coffee break gave a good opportunity for exchange of ideas and personal stories, often inspired by the contact of the session. Learning the song, ‘La Puerta de Alcala’ lead to reminiscences of visits to Madrid. The learners arranged a very successful half-day trip to nearby Les Baux, the home of one of the learners.*
Personal circumstances and interests were a good source of language learning. For example, S’s pregnancy led to discussion of Spanish vocabulary connected with childbirth and guessing in Spanish what she would call her baby. N who was looking for work, took great pleasure in writing her CV in Spanish.
The course ended with a presentation, in which each participant was both performer and, spectator. The presence of friends and relatives acted as a further incentive. Everyone had great fun, the performance of the ‘Sévillane’ being the high spot. To quote one member of the group, ‘I never knew it was possible to learn a language and have such fun.’
* As Socrates Lingua 1 funding is not available for student travel, other sources of funding are found for such excursions.