Celebrating Home Languages Week 2024


Just before the Spring Break ISU celebrated Home Languages Week. ISU saw a variety of linguistic events and learning engagements. This year for the first time, we had a special guest come from the UK- bilingual author and languages teacher: Yoshito Darmon-Shimamori.

By Helen Absalom, Amy Mc Gregor & Carren Ward, ELA teachers and multilingualism specialists. Picture: one of our caretakers reading aloud a Dutch children's book.

Our guest ran workshops with grades 5 and 8, a teacher-training session on ‘translanguaging’ and an online session for parents. With the grade 5 and 8 students, Mr Darmon-Shimamori talked about how he discovered that his multilingualism was a super-power. He showed the students how he had used his superpower to write a bilingual graphic novel for students to complete with their own languages.

Home Languages Week in primary

Grade 3 kicked off the week with a multilingual assembly where they shared facts about their unit, Space, in their home languages. They then asked the audience to guess which languages they were speaking. The aula was a-buzz with excitement as the audience showed which languages, they thought they had heard. It was amazing to see faces light up as students recognised their own home languages and those of their friends.

The library: Ms Noa Hillevitz Yoseph invited parents, secondary students, and teachers to read to every primary school class over the week. Guests read in their own home languages or languages which they had learned. The audiences of students were from all language backgrounds and ages. Readers talked about traditional stories from their languages and words which had cross-linguistic connections.

In specialist classes, students investigated subject-specific terminology in their home languages then looked for generalisations across languages. In music, students investigated words for fast/slow, soft/loud, and high/low. In art, students inquired into colour words and in PHE, learners designed games and made posters of those games in their home languages. In drama, students made a collage of all the languages they speak and in the host country language, Dutch, students investigated how to talk about the main message, concept or title of a book using their own home languages as well as Dutch.

In Home Languages Clubs students made mini films of themselves teaching vocabulary and phrases in their languages. We all enjoyed watching the films and learning some new words and phrases in languages we do not speak. This was a great way to get a sneak peek into the Home Languages Clubs at ISU. We are always looking to broaden our number of clubs and offer more languages and always need parents’ help with this. Are you interested in learning more about setting up a language club? Please contact javier.parilla@isutrecht.nl.

Multilingual activities throughout the school

In grade 1 English Language Acquisition and classroom teachers worked on making translinguistic connections through word order in a sentence - we discovered how many languages have the verb at the end of a sentence or an adjective after a noun - contrasting with our instructional language, English. Grade 2 discussed their unit invention ideas in their home language groups, drew, and labelled inventions and finally posted a video on Seesaw describing their invention, how it worked and how it was an improvement from something that we currently use. Everyone worked bilingually.

Grades 4 and 5 inquired into loss and talked about how using our whole linguistic repertoire helps maintain and develop all our languages. They composed plurilingual free verse poems using a medley of home languages, heritage languages, learned languages and languages of interest. In Kindergarten, students combined Valentine’s Day with their Home Languages Week activities - comparing words across languages for the word ‘love’. The Rainbow Class learned how to greet each other in the home languages of their peers and made displays of the words for the walls.

Home Languages Week in secondary

In secondary, we kicked off home languages week with a presentation for the Grade 8 students from Yoshito Darmon Shimamori. Yoshito presented his inspiring life story to the Grade 8s and explained how being multilingual can be a superpower. For example, he had the students use their collective linguistic knowledge to guess the meaning of words they had never heard before and they did really well.

Later in the week, students were treated to inside knowledge about the languages of our staff. Staff members presented their own languages and language repertoires which resulted in our students learning some phrases in Hebrew, Marathi, French, Maltese and Dutch. After Mr Abhay Chitale’s (ICT) inspiring presentation, Grade 7P students started showing each other how to write in their home language and then had an entertaining activity where they tried to pronounce a tongue-twister in each other’s languages. Ms. Marieke Folkers (Head of School) used her French teaching skills by having the Grade 8 students listen to a French poem and try to make meaning of the entire poem by learning just a few key words first. Ms. Sylvia van Nisius (HR) got Grade 9 excitedly chatting about carnival traditions around the world and some quirky Dutch carnival traditions and phrases. In Grade 10, Ms. Juanita Arnaud (secondary Maths Teacher) had students counting in Maltese and Arabic and explained the connection between the Maltese, Italian and Arabic languages.

Lastly, many students are putting together a special multilingual reading of one of the most translated stories in the world… ‘The Little Prince’! This is an on-going engagement so more on that later in the year!

Service As Action for Home Languages Week

Students from MYP started their Home Languages Week Service as Action (SAA)long before Home Languages Week. Some MYP students prepared detailed presentations of their home countries and languages and shared their work with grade 4 students. Presentations included fun language activities and quizzes. Other secondary students planned language lessons around a book in their home language. After reading their books, they helped the students find key story-words in the home languages represented in that class. Students in the language hub are working on creating a language cafe which will serve the school by providing short, fun language-sharing moments that will be useful when travelling to other countries during the holidays.

My language, your language, our language, everybody's language

Radio Station:The week was wrapped up byRadio ISU, produced and directed by our Radio Editor-in-Chief, Mr Oliver Allport- grade 1 class teacher. Radio ISU serves as a dynamic platform to foster English language learning among students while simultaneously promoting multilingualism in an international school environment. The special Home Languages Show focused on grade 1’s multilingual landscape with songs which they translated into the languages of their class, a quiz about languages and a description of the Grade 1 Language Ambassador Programme.Children participating chose the music which they felt represented the message of Home Languages Week and the whole show was presented by our very own DJ students from grades 2, 3 and 4. The week ended on a high note reiterating the importance of our Home Languages through our wonderful radio programme in multiple languages: my language, your language, our language, everybody’s language.