The following post comes from MFL head Chris Lowe, who shares some brilliant inspiration on how teachers and families can support foreign language learning during lockdown.

After a few weeks of lockdown and social distancing, we start to yearn for something that takes us away from the usual routine. Helping your children with Modern Foreign Languages and their associated cultures could be one exciting way of breaking that cycle.

With access to online tools and a touch of creative flair, there’s definitely a way of bringing a certain je ne sais quoi into the home. The five ideas in this article will help to build interest in other cultures and will enable you to use home schooling to teach valuable skills.

Home scavenger hunt map by The Spruce

1. Scavenger Hunt

I’ve seen this on several social media outlets in the last few weeks, from teachers and parents with a creative flair. You start by giving your children a list of items to find –  however they need to be in the foreign language. If you are not proficient in the language, do not worry! I recommend using an online dictionary like www.wordreference.com to help source the words.

Once you have the list, the children then have a designated time to find the items in the house. They will also need a little training in how to use the physical or online dictionary. It looks fun, albeit messy, but have a go!

2. Language App Leader Boards

There are many apps and websites that help with language learning. They are often free and hugely popular with pupils and parents alike!

You could complete this activity as a family and learn a language together, or support your child with the language(s) they are learning at school. Lots of my pupils like DuoLingo and it has a very user friendly interface. Once signed up, it will give you reminders to keep involved. I would produce a simple chart for all participants to record their scores on whatever basis you decide.

3. Masterchef

There is no denying the popularity of TV programmes such as MasterChef and The Great British Bake Off, they have mass appeal. Cooking is such a vital skill to learn, not only for survival, but for considering health and fitness goals as well as helping children to learn about where food comes from.

You could set this activity up as a small competition for your children to compete. However, I would advocate using this to discover recipes from other cultures, ideally in the foreign language. It would be a great talking point and could be done in the target language or English.

Why not learn about the history of one of your favourite foreign dishes? I’m a Bake Off fan and like to watch the French version, Le meilleur pâtissier!

4. Take a Holiday!

It sounds odd, given the current situation! However, with the internet, it could be more possible that you had thought.

In lessons I often use Google Maps and Google Earth to take my pupils to towns and villages in France or Spain. They can take a tour and see what it’s like. So, if you’ve had to cancel or postpone a holiday, why not investigate this online? If you and your children are culture vultures, there are so many museums and galleries that are giving free online access to their exhibits. You might get to see something amazing!

Going one step further, you could get your children to plan a holiday and look at the TripAdvisor reviews in the target language, and whether they would recommend an attraction and why.

5. Movie Night

Grabbing some tasty snacks and getting comfortable with a great film is a pastime loved by many. Why not add a foreign twist?

Lots of people have signed up for the many film and TV streaming platforms that currently exist. I think there are some quite good deals out there if you aren’t currently signed up. So, my suggestion is why not watch a film or a new TV series in the foreign language? It’s not all art-house cinema – there are lots of great films and series that can be enjoyed by all on services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

I am currently enjoying Call my Agent (Dix pour cent) on Netflix. If you don’t have these services, why not see if you can change the language of any DVDs that you have. It’s a great way to access a language. A more tech-friendly approach might be YouTube where there are lots of foreign language YouTubers/singers for all ages and interests. The speed and subtitles can be altered for learners of all ages.

Think of the lockdown as an opportunity!

This list of activities and suggestions is not exhaustive and does not require lots of expertise. However, it does present an opportunity for families to teach and learn new skills and access culture and language from you own home.

These activities will support helping children to see language learning and culture as joined at the hip. Also, it’s worth noting that many schools will be providing excellent online resources for the more traditional aspects of language learning. This list is just to simply add another dimension and provides some alternatives for any time of the week.

Author

Chris Lowe

Chris Lowe is a secondary school Head of Modern Languages, Examiner and PGCE Tutor in the South East of England. His blog Mr Lowe MFL provides his insights and opinions about teaching Modern Languages and working in middle leadership. In addition to this, Chris share his resources with others via Twitter – follow him @MrLoweMFL.