Well the answer to that is really pretty bad. Mrs Hunt did her best, but for me in the flatlands of the Fens in East Anglia it just wasn’t happening. I was generally a pretty good pupil at school but languages (even English, where I was a particularly slow reader) weren’t my thing.
The irony is, I’m now bilingual, read a great deal, and although first and foremost an art teacher, I am also a language teacher…..specialised in CLIL (content and language integrated learning). With the CLIL approach my art skills are combined with my language knowledge in helping my Dutch pupils learn about art and the English language simultaneously. How did that occur? It wasn’t a great plan, it just kind of happened and I’ve found great enjoyment in it, to the extent that, CLIL Magazine asked me to explain my perspective on this strange turn of events!
CLIL Magazine 2016 (Page 10)
The Dutch like to talk about a ‘taalknobbel‘ (a language bobble/lump??!), something that people who are good at languages are supposed to have and others (like me) don’t have. When I was a teenager nobody would have said that I had a taalknobbel, yet here I am writing about language learning strategies and using them constantly in my art lessons with 12-17 year olds.
So what is the lesson here? I would certainly start by saying that just because you struggle with language when you are 12 it doesn’t follow that you are a lost cause. To be honest, and I know that many will disagree with me, I think the way languages are generally taught in schools is where the problem (at least for me) lies.
The structural deconstruction of language in order to learn vocabulary, grammar and other elements of language simply made it too abstract and confusing for me. Essentially the way I learnt Dutch was through immersion and being constantly surrounded by it. It became a more real thing and learning to speak it became a more intuitive issue. It is in this area that the CLIL approach to language scores, and it could also be the very reason why I seem to be quite good at it.