Happy New Year! Sťastný nový rok! Gelukkig nieuw jaar! Onnellista uutta vuotta! Bonne et heureuse année! 새해 복 많이! Happy bagong taon! 明けましておめでとうございます! Feliz año nuevo! Feliz ano novo! 新年快乐
One of the privileges of being an ESOL teacher is that I am able to work in many different classes from Kindergarten through to Grade 4. I work with children from an astounding number of countries helping them master what some call ‘the universal language’, English. Their fluency and clear pronunciation often makes it difficult for me to tell where they come from or what their mother tongues are. I think of my own miserable attempts to learn Putonghua and I marvel at the ease with which they slip in and out of two or even three languages.
My son (who is still into Marvel comics, Batman and the X men) asked me the other day what I would want to have if I could have a Superpower. Without hesitation I replied that I would like to be able to speak any language. Now partly this is because of nosiness (I am desperate to know what people on the metro are talking about!) and partly because language is a key to understanding and appreciating other people.
Pupils at SIS are able to speak, read and watch films in an enviable range of languages. At such a young age it is this adaptability – the way they can switch between languages and make connections with words or sentence structure – that makes their language acquisition so effective. (Indeed I often ask children what an English word is in Swedish or Korean.) So much of what they learn is from hearing it – and here I am particularly wistful. How and why do we lose this ability to learn just by listening to our teachers? Why do I now have to write everything down to remember it?!
And this brings me to the second thing I admire most about our pupils. They listen to each other too. They learn from each other’s experiences and they learn about each other’s experiences of different cultures. As I go from class to class, pupils may be learning about Thanksgiving or Passover or Korean New year or Chinese Food or Maori folk tales. They are invited to share their cultural background and to respect and enjoy others’ cultures.
Next Monday, the 17th January, is Martin Luther King Jr Day. The following week on 25th January is Burns night – when we Scots celebrate our greatest poet. Both of these remarkable men preached tolerance and a respect for other nations and people. In Burns’ words ‘A man’s a man, for a’ that’. On the 21st we celebrate Global Citizenship at our assembly. I applaud International schools for the remarkable job they do in instilling in each pupil a real sense of pride in their own backgrounds whilst simultaneously taking a genuine interest in others’ cultures too. I applaud our pupils for having the maturity to learn from each other and to respect the differences and similarities between us all – whether they are in festivals, food… or language.
I wish you all a happy year of the Rabbit, qing nian kuai le!
To read more stories about Shekou International School visit their website: www.sis.org.cn/why-choose-sis