Talk for everyone

27th May 2005 at 01:00

CITIZENSHIP AND LANGUAGE LEARNING: INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVES. By Audrey Osler and Hugh Starkey. British Council Trentham Books. pound;18.99.

Gill Maynard on citizenship and language learning

As citizenship becomes embedded in the curriculum, modern languages are certain to play a central role. Language teaching has always had a strong cultural dimension and conversation with foreign language assistants, penfriend links and school trips have enabled generations of children to identify with different communities.

Citizenship education, however, goes beyond cultural awareness, as these two books make clear. Each of them is a collection of papers on different aspects of citizenship and language learning. The CILT book is aimed at teachers, advisers and teacher trainers and focuses on good classroom practice in the national curriculum requirements for citizenship.

The British Council book takes a global perspective, including case studies of English teaching in Argentina, Finland and Romania, and is as relevant to teachers and students of citizenship as it is to linguists.

Reflections on Citizenship in a Multilingual World is clear and practical.

Each chapter is preceded by a brief summary, subheadings are used effectively and points for reflection and discussion with colleagues are highlighted, making it an ideal resource for advanced skills teachers or heads of department.

The strands of the citizenship programme of study are explained in the opening chapter and their implications for the content and methodology of language lessons examined. In addition to knowledge and understanding of other cultures, citizenship aims to develop enquiry and communication, so communicative teaching, pupil participation and collaborative group work are to be encouraged.

Subsequent chapters cover plurilingualism, community languages and anti-racism, with examples of both secondary and primary cross-curricular projects. Teachers will find a range of ideas for stimulating and challenging teaching.

Citizenship and Language Learning covers some of the same issues from a different standpoint. The book grew out of a British Council seminar and this is reflected in the broad perspective throughout. Part one examines human rights education and equality and diversity in a multicultural society. Only one of the three chapters deals specifically with language teaching, as the focus is on what constitutes a global citizen and how language teachers can best educate pupils for this role. Part two is subtitled "Teachers talking citizenship" and offers a fascinating collection of case studies from around the world, based mainly on projects involving learners of English.

Both books are stimulating and thought provoking. The CILT book should be in every languages department and the British Council book is ideal for anyone who wishes to explore citizenship and language in more depth.

Gill Maynard is languages development officer, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex

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