IMPACT ON LEARNERS
The learners who have taken part in the project are diverse. The only thing they have in common is that they are disadvantaged in ways which are likely to discourage then from learning languages. This may be to do with physical limitations, like visual impairments or physical disability; it may be the effect of long-term unemployment and the loss of confidence and resources this brings; others may come from communities where even the notion of learning a foreign language is alien and seen as “not for us”; some participants have learning difficulties and have had little success even in learning to read and write in their own mother tongue; some come from social, economic or personal backgrounds which have led them to substance abuse or crime. ALLEGRO has worked with all these groups and more.
The differences between the learners is striking, and the kinds of activities in which they have been engaged have varied from traditional classes extending over weeks or months to one-off taster sessions and language days. When it comes to the impact of the experience on those who have participated, however, they have many shared experiences. Most groups have reported:
• improved self-esteem
• more confidence in themselves
• better communication skills
• pride in their achievement
Another effect that teachers and group leaders have noticed is that participants have become more extrovert and that learning about other languages and cultures has helped them to think of things other than their own day-to-day problems and obsessions. The experience has extended their horizons. As one group organiser put it:
“These are young people who tend to be focused on their own problems and difficulties. Coming into contact with other languages and people from other countries has enabled them to see that there are other ways of doing things and other possibilities in life”.
“We held our event on a Sunday because that can be a lonely time for some
of our clients. Singing together is a wonderful way to increase confidence, in any language.”
Jane Danforth, Positive Futures.
Learning a new language has also provided opportunities to extend and reinforce other skills.
The learners at Schottener Reha, who have learning difficulties, have not only become more confident. It is also reported that they have made great strides in other ways.
Before they started the course, they didn’t know the seasons, the order of the months, some of them the date of their own birthday, or use singular and plural and masculine and feminine correctly when speaking in German. They were not interested in counting or describing things, or reading and writing. Now together we have conquered nearly all these weaknesses. They have opened their minds and interests, are beginning to read and write outside the Spanish lessons and have faith in their capability to do more and more things.