Wide-eyed children are sat cross-legged before me as another hand shoots in the air ‘What are the uniforms like?’ and another asks: ‘Tell us about the food?’ There is no end to the boundless curiosity of children, not least at the VICI Language Academy.
However, this was not at VICI; indeed, this was not even in the UK! I have just returned from visiting the French office of VICI and was invited to speak to primary school children – about the UK. I went armed with cream teas, Cornish pasties, Bakewell tarts – and some Cream Eggs and faced an enthusiastic barrage of questions, ranging from the Queen to Brexit.
Intelligent questions from nine and 10-year-olds who naturally had a global perspective, but were not really learning English as they teacher only spoke a little. She had invited me to visit because she wanted her children to learn English, but a lack of experience or commitment from the Government, meant that little was being done to quench the thirst of these young children to learn about another language and culture. If you’ll excuse my French, I experienced déjà vu!
As in France, it is in the UK and learning a second language has taken a back seat against competing priorities and one can only despair at the lost opportunities the children from both countries are missing by not learning another language, unless of course a school or parents take the initiative.
Much as I did with the French children, they were immersed in English culture and goodies and of course the language, their eyes shone and they were totally engaged – just as the children are who come to the VICI Language Academy and are immersed in the culture of another language.
For me, the trip to that French school was a reminder; I launched VICI because of my passion for language and desire to help children and adults become bilingual and beyond. For many adults, I recognised their experience of learning another language, usually French, had been a painful experience… But at least they got to try! I wonder how many children will never experience the thrill of conversing in another language?
I know many parents share my concerns and it has contributed to VICI teaching French to more children in 2017 than we have ever done before and almost daily a dedicated parent will enquire about their children attending the Academy to ensure that they truly become bilingual, with the myriad benefits it will bring.
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