Language Lessons from Locals

Posted: 21 April 2022

The Round Square network is a truly international community with a rich diversity of languages spoken, which offers an extraordinary natural resource to those learning languages around the world. Our Language Labs draw on that resource by enlisting students to lead conversation workshops via zoom in their native language, creating real-world practice opportunities for those that are learning to speak it.

Conversation is led by students around topics that are of interest to the learners (e.g. they discuss their hobbies, families, schools, food, music, cultures etc). Each call lasts 60 minutes and is conducted entirely in the language that is being learned. Within each language lab, breakout groups are arranged according to proficiency from beginner through to advanced.

In 2021 a Spanish Language Lab was hosted over four weekly sessions, each week hosted by students from a different school – from St George’s College (Peru), Colegio Gran Bretaña (Colombia), San Silvestre School (Peru) and Markham College (Peru).

They used interactive, educational games to help improve participants’ vocabulary. St George’s College shared images of verbs, animals and objects, with students racing to get to the answer first. Our hosts from Colegio Gran Bretaña ended their session with an informative Kahoot game that summarised their Topic “Where are we from?”. As an ice breaker Markham College encouraged students to share their likes and dislikes in a game of Two-Truths-and-a-Lie, and ended their session with a game of hangman, focusing on helping students to improve their terminology and spelling.

Our most recent Spanish Language lab covered topics of Tourism, lifestyle, food, films and TV series. It was hosted by seven schools: Godspell College (Argentina), Colegio Anglo Colombiano (Colombia), Craighouse School (Chile), Belgrano Day School (Argentina), Colegio de Inglaterra (Colombia), SEK International School (Spain), and Colegio Colombo Británico (Colombia).

“It was very interesting and an eye-opener to hear different dialects of Spanish and their variations” said Language Lab participant, Shimwa from Brookhouse School in Kenya. Fellow classmate Andrew said “the lab sessions aided me in the development of my language skills and to interact with students of diverse backgrounds.”Switching languages, our most recent French Language Lab, was hosted by students from Ecole Alsacienne in France, Elaraki School in Morocco, and Calgary French & International School in Canada, for around 70 participants each week, and discussed cultural norms, stereotypes, world food and music.

Reflecting on her experience as a Language Lab student leader, Fatima from Elaraki school says “The Round Square French Lab was a great experience where we got to share different ideas and got to know many people from different cultures all over the world. By discussing music around the world, we were able to connect and discover each person’s favourite music genres as well as music in different countries which made it a very eye-opening and rewarding discussion.”

“We were all very prepared and it was very easy to have a good discussion” says Polina, a student host from Calgary French & International School.

Polina started her breakout sessions by asking each participant to introduce themselves with their name, age, name of their school, and location. “In this way, I was also able to assess the French skills of each participant in order to be able to adapt the questions to be understandable for the whole group” she says. “Over time people adopted a system of raising their virtual hands, which made the discussion even easier!” Reflecting on the impact the experience had on her own communication skills, Polina says “If I saw that someone didn’t understand the question, I asked it again to clarify or to make it easier for the person. I believe that initial clarity is a skill I should work on more… I loved this experience and not only was it fun, but I learned many strategies and developed essential skills for life. These are useful skills for communicating with everyone: family, friends or the professional world”.

With high demand for more Language labs, groups of Round Square Schools are currently working together to plan upcoming Language Labs in Arabic, Hindu, Japanese and German, as well as further Spanish and French Labs.

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