Tips for reigniting interest in Languages

Kids these days just don’t want to learn another language

School principal

It’s a common problem we face as language teachers. The numbers don’t lie. It seems to be getting harder and harder to engage students in language learning. 

It’s not from a lack of trying. As we know, it’s a complicated picture with a lot of moving parts. For example, a lack of school support for Languages, a huge variety of competing subject choices in high schools and a persisting monolingual mindset that often makes it hard for our students (and their families) to understand the value and joy in learning languages. 

Whilst many of those factors are out of our control, there are some simple thing you might like to try with your classes to try and reignite interest and up the positive energy.

Integrate songs and music wherever possible

A lively song is a fantastic way to start a lesson. And if even if older students act as though it’s lame, they are secretly enjoying it and getting the songs stuck in their head. Not only is some singing a great way for students to learn language and practise pronunciation, it also sets the mood for your Languages class as being a fun place. 

If you are an Italian teacher, maybe you would like to use our Avanti Tutta song as a good opener for your class?  We are also writing some new songs to accompany our new Japanese program, Peko Peko, so we’ll be sure to share those as soon as we can. 

Ensure projects and tasks have authentic audiences

If your students are lacking engagement, perhaps it’s time to conduct  a review of your tasks. Writing a hypothetical email to a hypothetical homestay family might be engaging to our most eager students, but realistically a lot of our students need something more ‘real’ to motivate them. Even something as simple as the students writing to another real person can make a difference.

Why not set up a buddy system between some of your classes where (for example) the Year 7s create videos or write letters to communicate with the Year 10s or 11s? It might be scary for the Year 7s at first but it gives the younger students a chance to create a bond with older students who are interested in Languages study. Plus, reading the Year 7 letters will be a nice brain break for the older kids and a reminder of how far their own language skills have come. 

Solve problems in the Languages class that your students actually care about

Are there some issues your classes are particularly interested in? Are they passionate about a particular local issue? Do they wish the school had a school band? Or that they got to go on a school camp? Is there a school rule or policy that really gets their goat up? Something they wish the tuckshop would serve? 

Choose a topic students are interested in and set them the task of creating a pitch in the target language to change something they aren’t happy about. 

They could present their case in target language to the class. You could even invite along someone from school leadership to watch the pitches. This may seem too challenging for younger learners, but you’ll be surprised what your students are capable of if enough language scaffolding is provided. 

Many of the language functions featured in Avanti Tutta and the forthcoming Peko Peko can be used as a springboard for creative, collaborative tasks. Take a look at our website or contact us if you’d like to find out more about our resources. 

Have you had a challenging class you’ve managed to turn around? What worked? We’d love to hear from you.

P.S. If you haven’t already, you might like to download our ‘Why Study a Language?’ posters. One of them is already populated with discussion points and one is blank, designed for the kids to come up with their own ideas. We know with some classes it can be tough, but you might find that helping the kids develop some ideas around why Language study is not just useful but also enjoyable might shift the mood a little.