Dutch Language Acquisition through concept-based learning
We have all learned one or more languages in our lives. Many of us might not have thought about the process of language learning, especially if we learned the language(s) at a very young age. So how do we learn languages?
By Karin Valk, primary Dutch teacher
As you reflect on the language learning process, you might find that speaking, listening, reading and writing are all unique skills. How do we learn all of these skills in a manner that is effective and keeps us motivated? As with all learning, it needs to be meaningful; it needs to be relevant to the student’s personal environment. How do we ensure this at ISUtrecht? You might have heard about concept-based learning.
Concept-based learning asks students to think critically about what they are learning, and how they can apply this knowledge and understanding in a variety of contexts. They work with big ideas, rather than separate subjects. In Dutch Language Acquisition, this is accomplished through connecting the lessons to the Units of Inquiry. We also not only teach vocabulary, but we are learning about the language, practicing communication skills, gaining cultural knowledge and much more. Teaching through concept-based learning ensures that the students make important connections between the Dutch language and culture and their own as well as the cultures of their peers.
Language is an important part of identity, being able to use it helps us take our place in communities. This is one of the reasons that the use of home languages is encouraged. In Dutch Language Acquisition, the connection to home languages and understanding how prior knowledge of languages helps us learn, is an important part of the lessons as it fosters deeper and better understanding of the new language. Making use of the gift to speak multiple languages is something to celebrate. In addition, being creative in the use of those languages and playing with words is important and beneficial to the language learning process. Having parent support when it comes to encouraging the use of home languages is crucial.
An advantage of home learning as we have known in the recent past, is the more widely available exposure to the home language. We have seen great examples of how students connect Dutch, English and (sometimes multiple) home languages in their activities.
Recently, students promoted their favourite books (in any language) in Dutch. In another activity about shapes, students show the many languages represented in class by using their translanguaging skills to create understanding. Another common activity is to use the translation in home languages to make connections. It is wonderful to see students excited about their languages and sharing it with all of us, so we all become better language learners.