“You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you only live once.”
This week has been Bilingualism Week in the Secondary school, a week in which we have given a special focus in all of our lessons to the benefits of speaking two languages, of course something at the heart of what we are doing in our wonderful school.
All week, we have been running a variety of competitions, one of which was a translation treasure hunt around the campus. Another one was an interpretation competition which saw the finalists competing in a translanguaging competition in our weekly assembly - the prize?... to be my interpreter! As I write this, the winner is yet to be decided, and I will update you all with this news, but there has been stiff competition and everyone who has taken part should be congratulated.
A week like this gives us a chance to pause and reflect on just how brave and inspiring our students are. It is very easy to forget sometimes that they are second language learners and we must all recognise the challenges they face each day as they are acquiring new vocabulary and grammar rules - all while learning new knowledge and wider skills. I for one applaud our students for the way they overcome the inherent difficulties of learning a language. Most days I struggle to make myself understood in everyday conversations on the streets of Hanoi. I get frustrated with my inability to communicate fully, but I get a thrill when I am understood (generally through the use of gestures in addition to my sparse Vietnamese!).
So I think in this week we should consider how brave our students are. They have had to deal with understanding native English speakers, some with some very funny British regional accents and phrases. They have had to, at some point, deal with the feeling of being excluded, if they can't understand what is being said. Some have to translate in their heads from English into Vietnamese and then back into English again, and hope they have got the right phrasing. Not only is this asking them to take risks with their learning but it is also tiring. They have to be resilient.
The problem with learning any language is that you cannot take a pill and suddenly be fluent, you cannot just download an app and have the new language flow out of your mouth. Language learning is hard, and it can take a long time, which is why it can be frustrating. However, in this week it is timely to consider the benefits of being bilingual - because it is worth it.
Bilingual people are more likely to have better paid jobs and better career opportunities. Bilingualism can open up lots of social and cultural opportunities, will give people a new perspective - bilingual people see the world differently. It also enables the learner to understand their own language better, and can lead to better problem solving and decision making skills.
So thank you to all the staff involved in making Bilingualism Week so successful, in particular to Mrs Murray-Smith and Mrs Nghia Phan.
And to all of our students - keep going, we are proud of you, and it is worth it.
I hope you all have a great week ahead.
Mr. Nick Lee - Head of Secondary