S is for Spanish

Spanish, aka Castilian, is one of the Romance languages and the second most spoken language in the world after Chinese. It just spoken in Spain, most of Central and South America, and parts of Africa.

The language evolved from Latin, and its current form spread from the north of Spain, down through the country when the Christians reconquered the lands from the Moors. There is still lots of Moorish influence on the vocabulary, including words such as aceite (oil) aceituna (olive), albóndiga (meatball), alcalde (mayor) and aldea (village).

Spanish is a popular language to learn as a second language in the UK, partly because Spain is a popular holiday destination, and partly because its phonetic nature makes it easier to learn than some European languages such as French and its lack of cases makes it easier to learn than other European languages such as German.

Like most Romance languages, it has two genders (masculine and feminine) for nouns, and sentences follow a subject-verb-object word order. Probably the languages most distinctive features are the upside down question mark (¿) and the upside down exclamation mark (¡).

If you fancy learning some Spanish, there is a free course at FutureLearn. If you’d like some face-to-face lessons instead, then get in touch to see how I can help.

Related posts:  R is for Romance Languages     T is for…..

R is for Romance languages

The most common Romance languages are Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Romanian and Catalan. Other lesser-known ones include Occitan, Galician, Asturian, Sicilian, Corsican and Sardinian. In all there are about 35 living Romance languages. Sadly their name comes from the word Roman and not the word romantic.

The Romance languages are the ones that evolve from vulgar Latin. Vulgar here means common, ie the version of Latin actually spoken by the common people, compared to the classical Latin of the church and of the elite. Originally vulgar Latin and classical Latin were mutually intelligible, but over time vulgar Latin evolved into the various Romance languages and the people were no longer able to understand classical Latin.

Most Romance languages have lost some of the more difficult aspects of Latin, such as declensions and cases. Because of this they have a much stricter subject-verb-object word order, and they make more use of prepositions.

There are about 800 million speakers of Romance languages in the world and most of them are in Europe, Africa and the Americas. In Europe the places where Romance languages are spoken roughly equates to the boundaries of the Western Roman empire.

And to return to the statement in the first paragraph about the Romance coming from Roman and not romantic, there is a link between the words. Back in those days, “serious” literature was written in classical Latin. Popular tales, such as love stories, were written in the common (ie  Romance) language, and so they came to be called romances.

Related posts: Q is for Quechua   S is for…

How to Learn Children’s Names in September

It’s that time of year again, when teachers are thinking about their new classes, hoping they won’t have too many with the same name, and wondering how they will ever learn all the names if they aren’t all the same.

Seasoned teachers know that there’s nothing really to worry about and that they will learn everyone’s name this year – just as they do every year. NQTs and those about to embark on teacher training courses might be feeling a little more daunted. This is how I do it:

I tell a story along the lines of The Enormous Turnip but about a person who got their hat stuck on their head because it was too small – and I take a flamboyant hat along to use as a prop. I’m a languages teacher, so I do this in French, but it will work in English too.

I call out the children one by one, and each time I retell the story I repeat the names of all the children in the line as well as those who are still watching. Eg: Jack B, Chloe, Izzy, Jade S and Jack C pulled and pulled and pulled, but the hat was still stuck. Dale, Hassan, Jack H, Jade  W, Millie, Ahmina etc were all laughing at them, so they called Hassan up to help.

Everyone joins in with the story, so even those sitting down waiting their turn to join in are repeating the words to the story and calling out the names (useful if you have a blank as there are 29 other children saying each other’s names!).

It’s quite time-consuming – you need to set aside a good 15-20 minutes – but by the time you have called the last person up , the hat has come off and everyone has pretended to fall over, you’ve repeated everyone’s name so many times that you know you’ll never ever forget them!

For me, it’s worth investing the time because I usually teach several classes in several schools so by the end of the first week I need to have learnt well over 300 names!  If you want to give it a go, bear in mind that it needs a lot of space so you will either need to clear all the tables away or better still book the hall! It’s a good opportunity to reinforce behaviour too, with plenty of praise for the children sensibly waiting their turn.

If you don’t have the time or the space to spare, or you don’t like the sound of this, I’ve also found a couple of other blog posts with some different ideas for you to try: https://jamesstubbs.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/learning-names/  and  http://teacherpop.org/2016/07/6-surefire-ways-remember-students-names/

If you have any other ideas for how to remember names, please do share them in the comments.

MFL Spelling Game

French wordsThis week I made up a game for my children to practice the alphabet. I put lots of individual letters into a bag, and they had to take it in turns to draw a letter out and say its name. If they pronounced it correctly, they kept it; if not, it went back into the bag. The first person to spell a word with the letters they had in front of them was the winner.

I have several sets of scrabble tiles, so I used those, but to save money and time, the children could always write out the letters themselves and put them into a pot in the middle of the table.

My original idea was just to get them to practise the letters, as I’d noticed that although they were really good at chanting the alphabet, they were quite slow at naming the letters when spelling words.

However, the game ending up going beyond this. For starters, it really made them think about all the words they had learnt so far and how to spell them, so it turned into a good vocabulary revision game. They also practiced more than just the letters they pulled out, because they got so into the game that I overheard, “I really hope I get ‘erre’ , “I just need an ‘ixe’, “Please don’t be another ‘té’ etc.

The way I played it was that as soon as a child had made a word, the game stopped, the letters went back into the bag and we started again. The first few winners were ‘et’ and ‘as’ so then we added a rule that the word had to be at least three letters.

However, the game could be easily be adapted for older learners by either giving them a time limit to see who could make the most / longest words, or by giving each letter a Scrabble-type value and allow them to draw a certain number or letters to see who could make the highest-scoring word. Or to add an element of strategy, and to encourage older pupils to make longer words, you could add a rule that once someone has made a word, the other players can draw out one more letter to see if they can make a better one.

Related post: Learning to spell in French