A Class Act: uTalk at the Southern Primary Languages Show

The Association for Language Learning held their Southern Primary Languages Show this past Saturday in Wokingham, run by language professional Sue Cave, and we sent our uTalk Senior Education Consultant, Susannah, along to take part. She was there to try and promote our Junior Language Challenge and also have a fun day talking all things language with a lot of teachers!

With more than 2,000 children across the country already taking part in the uTalk Junior Language Challenge (JLC), we can safely say it’s well underway. Plenty of students have already hit the 500 points they need to qualify for the next round—but since we here at uTalk think everyone should have the chance to learn a language, we want to promote our challenge to as many people as possible.

Enter Susannah. She’s our Senior Education Consultant, in charge of all things uTalk JLC-related, and was excited to get out there and meet people. With around 70 delegates in attendance, she definitely had the chance to speak to many about how they were doing with their language teaching and how the uTalk JLC could help boost that.

So, Susannah, how was the show?

It was well worth setting off out at 6:15 am on Saturday to get there! It was highly popular, with 70 delegates from many different primary environments attending. There were some fascinating workshops on teaching methodology, use of resources and a myriad of other incredibly useful things.

It was your first time at a languages show—how did you find it?

It was a superb opportunity to be able to engage with practitioners and show them exactly how beneficial the uTalk Junior Language Challenge is to the whole range of learners and learning opportunities over the year. With the flexibility to choose your own first language, the chance to learn a new language and then experience accessible progression to Round Two was recognised as a great advantage to all.

When you spoke about ‘learning opportunities’—how the JLC could impact on the whole learning experience for these students—did you find teachers were interested in that?

The co-curricular opportunities of having a choice of first language was appreciated. It was mentioned that Zulu and Māori could both be used in conjunction with P.E. and rugby, or that various minority languages could be chosen by schools with a sizeable EAL cohort, so that pupils could use them in Round One to have fun engaging in language learning, expanding their knowledge, whilst also making sure they gained the 500 points necessary to progress to the main competition in Round Two.

And what do teachers think of Round Two? Obviously, it doesn’t start until January, but they must be thinking about it!

Teachers loved the fact that Round Two featured a language already taught in many schools, and also a language spoken by one of our nearest European neighbours. Then that the end of Round Two ended in the hiatus of a ‘live’ Regional Final where the most able (or most competitive!) could be crowned ‘Regional Champion’ of the uTalk JLC was also seen as a superbly exciting opportunity to extend the Gifted, Talented and Interested provision in a primary environment.

Amazing! So overall, pretty positive, then?

Yes. The fact that two languages were available to all pupils until the end of the year for the minimal sum of £5 was seen as superb value. Teachers were also pleased that they were able to use the uTalk JLC to make language learning exciting, and to be able to prepare primary pupils well for the rigorous experience of language learning in a secondary school environment.

Sounds like it! Sounds like you had a busy time, too—did you manage to take a look around?

Yes, even though the hall was packed full of exhibitors, we had the chance to visit all the stalls during a break to gain knowledge on available materials.

Seems like Susannah had a great time at her first show—and many of the students taking part are having a lot of fun, too. At Highclare School, teacher Clare Kenny has said that her students ‘are having a wonderful time participating in [the] uTalk [JLC]’; Jane Garfield, from Oakwood School, where they are learning Spanish in Round One, says that ‘the children are getting on well with the challenge. Interestingly, a few days ago, it was year threes in the lead (one has over 2,000 points)! I wasn’t sure if they would be too young but clearly not!’

Estelle Couture, from Berkhamsted Prep, where students are also learning Spanish, has her top student coming to her every day saying he can’t get the last two points even though he is really desperate to!

And when it comes to less-commonly-learnt languages, The Glasgow Academy may have everyone else beat not only for their choice, but for how they came to make it! Kaye Smith, the Modern Languages teacher at the Prep School for The Glasgow Academy, sent an email saying, ‘in terms of the language selection I have asked the children to select from a shortened list of 6 and Zulu came out on top. I think they were all really keen to choose something, that from their perspective seemed more obscure, and it is something that they may never get the chance to experience first hand.’ 

Very democratic! And, as she adds, her students will be experiencing some of that co-curricular learning—‘I had spoken briefly to the children about living in a rural orphanage in South Africa and that I speak Zulu. That was some time ago but it has perhaps stuck with them. I am planning a few info meetings with them to discuss economic/social/political/historical/cultural background of South Africa.’

Clare Kenny, MFL teacher from Highclare School, has also had her students reflect on their learning throughout the uTalk JLC—her students are also learning Spanish and she has had them write down how they feel about the challenge on post-its, then kindly sent some photos over to us!

Green post-it note that reads: I like uTalk because it is really fun to know different subjects of Spanish then get tested on it. Temi.
Green post-it reads: I like uTalk because I started not knowing much Spanish and I have come on loads and there are many different topics. Amelie.
Green post-it reads: I like uTalk because it's an easy way to learn languages. Holly.

Amazing work. We’ve also had at least two students—Sebastian and Emma—get full marks on their first language; Sebastian was so keen to keep going with another language that he started learning Latin over the October half term! 

If you haven’t signed your children or pupils up to the uTalk JLC yet, there’s still plenty of time to do so—just go to the uTalk Junior Language Challenge website and register. If you’re a teacher, you don’t have to pay until you’re invoiced (after all your students are up and running) and that £5 entry fee gets you around 400 words and phrases in two different languages across the year! (That’s 800 total—bargain!)

Register today and give your children a leg-up on their language learning this year! 

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