Student Interest in International Languages

A peek into culture peaks student interest in international languages

Through many partnerships with schools overseas, OCENET has supported international language learning for OCDSB students and staff.

OCENET has many international connections with schools overseas and they often request an intracultural exchange with OCDSB schools. Sometimes these intracultural exchange projects are initiated by OCENET and other times requested by OCDSB principals and teachers.

Everyone recognizes the benefits of these intracultural exchange projects for students. An interesting phenomenon tends to occur with each of these projects; the students start to learn about a particular culture, make friendships and connections with the students in the exchange country, and then they want to learn their language.

A recent collaboration with schools in Chengdu, China, has elementary level students at Castor Valley ES, Pleasant Park PS, and Half Moon Bay PS (see pages 1 and 2 of this edition of Global Connections) are presently learning basic Chinese and exchanging ideas with their counterparts overseas.

A similar language learning exchange is currently in place with French as the focus between OCDSB elementary students in Ottawa and Aix-Marseille, Provence, France.
Here is where the support of the OCDSB Continuing Education’s International and Indigenous Languages Program (ILLP) has been a key partner in arranging the language instruction based on this student interest.

Through Continuing Education and under the leadership of Principal Anne McKillop-Ostrum, the OCDSB offers opportunities for both elementary and secondary students to learn languages besides English and French. Nectaria Karagiozis is the Program Officer in Continuing Education responsible for the International and Indigenous Languages Program and she along with OCENET may arrange for language instruction to enhance the exchange projects where there is sufficient student interest. In this way, students will benefit from a deeper understanding of the culture through language.

Ocenet Staff Working from Home
A screenshot of several OCENET staff members enjoying their Chinese lessons at their virtual class for one hour each Wednesday with language tutor Chang Liu (centre right).

As these elementary school students continue in school, it is more likely they will be open to additional language learning and be more culturally aware as they enter high school. Research has shown that brain development is affected by language competency, such that when students become competent in one language, they acquire the structures to learn another language more easily. For students with English or French as their first language, learning an additional language opens doors to new opportunities, whether for student exchanges, gap year travel, or learning about another culture.

OCENET values the connections between language and cultural awareness, and strongly supports student acquisition of international languages. Programs such as the OCDSB International Certificate Program administered by OCENET’s International Education Coordinator includes learning an international language component in addition to English or French. Learning international languages is a key to supporting the goals of global citizenship and cultural competency.

If your school wishes to explore a partnership with another school overseas and to include learning an international language as part of the intracultural exchange, please contact OCENET’s Executive Director, Geoff Best.

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