Humanising Language Teaching
Dare to Live another Language at IEPSCF
Claudette de Ville and Caty Duykaerts
IEPSCF = Institut d'Enseignement de Promotion Sociale de la Communaute Francaise
Our Institute teaches 6000 students a year, coming from no less than 70 different nationalities. An academic staff of 70 teach Arabic, Dutch, English, French, German and Spanish.
Our student body has changed over the years. In the seventies we mostly taught languages to unemployed Belgians to improve their chances in the labour market. Today we teach a lot of Dutch and French, the two national languages of Belgium, to immigrants.
We were founded in 1976 and had just 1,200 students that first year, compared to the 6000 we teach today. ( we owe much to our founder, Emile Gevenois) In 1998 we achieved the European Quality Label for Language Teaching.
Do you know I.E.P.S.C.F., these unpronouncable initials?
by Anita Manana, Spanish teacher, I.E.P.S.C.F. - Uccle , Belgium.
Language courses are given there, a school where you will surprise yourself.
This catchy sentence is not only my invention, I have heard it very often all around me at school. Indeed I frequently hear this from students in their astonishment at how they already get to be in the chosen language after only 3 months. “Never would I have thought 3 months ago I would be able to know so many things and, moreover to express myself with pleasure in this language”
When new students enroll in our school they know they will attend a 20-hour a week course in the language they have chosen (4 half days), they imagine they will attend “classically academic courses”.
The hidden face of our school is the huge social melting pot it represents and its advantages: friendship, mutual cooperation, openness towards others, and self-assurance for our shy students.
These communicative aspects are made possible because of continuous exchanges between the teacher and the other students throughout a large array of activities: a little chat with the group at the beginning of each lesson, an improvisation on a given topic, a song, the creation of a story, a tale, a detective inquiry the discussion on « burning» current events, a questionnaire on a given topic, films, etc
But beginners should not worry: the teacher is there to help them in their daily tasks.
Each day brings about its new linguistic discoveries, which will be “re-used” the next day, the following week or even much later when, you think you have forgotten them.
Well, this is it, I have said it, the very basis of our method is the “linguistic discovery and its constant blending” in the various activities the teacher proposes in the class; we “zoom in on a new structure and then use it (through games or activities of course) in more global contexts until the structure is “naturally instilled “ This recipe can he applied repeatedly from simple to more complex situations.
Now, to conclude, it would he appropriate to say that learning in our school is not a one-way game, for if the student needs a guide in his desire to learn, the teacher too, needs to meet students who have projects that go beyond learning a language, which will be a powerful incentive in the learning process. It is a teacher's deepest inner secret.
Talking About Expereinces
by Katty Mertens-Denny & Nadine Logghe, English teachers, I.E.P.S.C.F.-Uccle, Belgium
One of the most rewarding albeit, challenging sectors of education is that of teaching a foreign language. The students at the IEPSCF represent over 70 nationalities, a multitude of ethnic origins and a rainbow of races and religions. This diversity in student body composition is equaled in a diversity of goals and objectives. This is to say that not only are the pasts of the individual students, by nature, eclectic but so are their individual futures.
For these reasons, the average IEPSCF teacher facing the average IEPSCF class is exposed to a far wider spectrum of perception and interpretation, based on national and ethnic origin, than a representative of any other educational faculty not affiliated with the United Nations.
Political and religious beliefs, ethnic and moral persecution are often the reasons for which some students are attending classes. Others are often learning a foreign language because of career opportunities or advancement. All can impart remarkable insights and in so doing, stimulate memorable and enlightening exchanges when they begin to achieve proficiency in their new language. The teacher's challenge is to issue the tools of coherent expression and inspire the student to learn their proper use. This singular positioning provides the IEPSCF teacher with a “vision” denied by teachers in almost any other language study program. Just as battlefield doctors become competent in treating trauma victims, the language teacher in an IEPSCF situation, becomes proficient and flexible in his field through constant adaptation to the particular needs and requirements of this very unique plethora of cultures.
While the IEPSCF teaches in a modular method with predetermined milestones for each segment; teaching students whose mother language has a completely different alphabet or indeed, whose written language is expressed in ideograms can be a real challenge to maintaining the original principles of the course. Philosophically speaking, the students are “regularly different” and for this reason, the course never sinks into the doldrums of routine.
According to their “mother tongue”, students have more or fewer problems integrating the specificities of the English grammar and structures e.g. in Arabic and Persian there are no vowels or articles either, which is also true for Russian. Asian languages express time frames through different words instead of tenses the way English does. Additionally, although teaching is always done in English, students at the beginner's level sometimes help each other by giving a word in French or Dutch. That is why some students with a completely different linguistic background have a real hard time integrating the process of the first steps in English.
For many years countless students have successfully accomplished proficiency in foreign languages through the IEPSCF system. Many have forwarded their comments and observations.
Some students learn English because it is important for their work or for travel. They realize that it is possible to learn by speaking every day. They can immediately employ what they have already learned.
For Belgian students who have had Dutch as a second language, English is a special dream.
Most students know that they've improved a lot but are surprised that when they are confronted with real-life English situations, their background and role playing really works.
Most students don't express any difficulty with the learning process or system. Beyond the structural problems that we have already mentioned are those who have a hard time accepting the idea that it's difficult to reach a higher level in a foreign language than in their own. Many though, are amazed that even if learning English hasn't been easy, it has been in fact, possible. They have clearly seen their own evolution through different levels in the language, the interaction with other people and the instructor and they find these interactions and cooperation to be resourceful.
Studying and teaching English is not always “A Day at the Beach” but it's so rewarding in its interactive diversity!
The following are comments from our students at IEPSCF
1. “…..I have learned many things ……thanks to the method I can now make sentences flow freely …… no need for translation….I don't even need to think in French.”
2. “….I am more self confident so I can speak better…..I speak every day, it becomes a habit.” Danny
3. “English is an important language. It is spoken all over the world and the world has become small. I personally travel a lot in English speaking countries for my job, moreover my three children live in London and I expect to be able to communicate with my grandchildren in English…..thanks to the school and my instruction in English, I am much more focused on the English aspects of media, conversation, business language and everyday life.” Kate.
4. “Today I can walk in the street and understand advertising, I can read and understand my architectural magazines….and above all, I feel free….I can understand people around me it's a window on the world….this school, this method are excellent, it's a school of life but it's much more than learning a language it is therapeutic for some.” Jill
5. “Naturlich ist eine Evolution zu verzeichnen, ich beginne engl. Songs zu verstehen, kann meinen Kindern bei Hausaufgaben helfen. Ich begreife, was mich unser Computer fragt, der alle Programme in English hat. …..Sprachen erweitern den Horizont…..” Kari