Language learning et les SDF


It’s been absolutely heartbreaking to see the situation develop in Calais with migrants desperately trying to get to the UK through the channel tunnel. Over this past year there have been so many sad stories of people fleeing persecution and paying not only financially but also with their lives or those of their families.
Having worked In a school that had children who were both asylum seekers and recently arrived from other countries we were more than familiar with challenges faced by young people living in a society very different to their own.
Thinking about this made me look critically at some of the areas of study I was delivering in class. How could I better embrace the challenge of being sensitive to learners needs, make lessons vibrant and develop a sense of social conscience?
I had a conversation with one of the local universities about their course content and how we could better articulate what we did at school to give our students an insight into university experience.
I decided to use the film Welcome as part of our studies and I think it really gave my students a real eye opener.
Previously when teaching Higher or Advanced Higher I would use the texts that the PT advised. I found myself teaching texts that I had studied at uni. The classic was always L’étranger , but linguistically and conceptually fairly challenging for this age group and what I desperately wanted was to give them something that was a bit more current for them.
The film is harrowing, sad and tough to watch in parts. The learners responded in a brilliant way. They showed real insight and genuine concern about how such a situation could arise for people of their own age.
It really galvanised a lot of them to get more involved in projects for social justice. Some were pro active in supporting the soup kitchen, some were really galvanised to get into politics and some started quietly rounding up resources to support the local food bank and putting in time on that.
The linguistic diversity of the film was a real eye opener to the learners and given we had over 33 mother tongues in the school it seemed to have really struck a chord.
I don’t know whether it was because I was more invested in the topic and cultural significance of the film that I enjoyed working with this far more than I had teaching L’étranger. Don’t get me wrong, I love Camus but I was keen to do something a little more current for my learners.
I do hope “spoiler alert” that we don’t see the tragedy unfolding in real life as we did at the end of the film.
Th moral of this story?Language learning and intercultural understanding to help create a happy ending.


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