Mrs Lee McLellan – Head of Language Centre
Miss Nikita Schulz – Language Support Junior and Preparatory School
Miss Romy Mortenson – Language Support College
Welcome – 欢迎 – Bem vinda –Bienvenue
Empowering – Habilitant – Capacitando – 授权
Read, write, speak, – 读，写，讲 – ler, escrever, falar lire, écrire, parler
Bishop Bavin School Language Centre
A first day in a new school can always be daunting for any child, but imagine being a child who is starting school not only in a new environment but a completely foreign one as well. A child whose family has just moved from a different country with a completely different culture but most frightening – an environment where everyone speaks, writes and learns in a language which he/she cannot understand or speak.
This happens daily in South Africa and in order to try and assist these children and their families Bishop Bavin School devised an academic plan and from there the Bishop Bavin Language School was born. Initially, like many South African Schools, Bishop Bavin School was receiving applications on a daily basis from children who had just arrived in our country but could not communicate effectively in English.
Instead of declining these children we felt that it would be more appropriate to offer them a solution. The solution however was simple but the challenges faced to create the Language School had to be ironed out very carefully. The aim of the Language School is to equip foreign speakers with conversational English and the written ability that will assist them in the integration process once they are deemed ready to enter the mainstream College or Prep School.
No Child Left Behind
We are proud of the work achieved in the Language School and the growth amongst our foreign children has been phenomenal.
It is a privilege to work with these children and to watch how our South African children welcome and integrate with them.
Bishop Bavin School has truly embraced our culturally diverse community and all of our children will be equipped with respect and the ability to work with people of all cultural backgrounds.
Learners are accepted into the Language School but are integrated into a variety of mainstream classes and are encouraged to participate in the extra-curricular activities of the school thus integrating with the whole school. Once they are confident enough they are invited to write the entrance tests in order to be fully integrated into the mainstream timetable.
However even after integration, continuous support is offered form the Language School until the learner is fully independent. Arriving at this conclusion did not come easily. Our original approach was to focus on continuous language teaching only, yet we found that our Language School learners needed to interact with our mainstream students in order to practice what we were teaching.
They also needed exposure to subject terminology in order to equip them academically. This led us to follow a partially integrated approach whereby the Language School learners were required to enrol for five mainstream subjects. This ensured the required exposure to terminology, but also highlighted the problem areas for our children so that we could ensure that the correct support was put in place.
This model has proven to be the most effective and as Jordy van Dyk, from the DRC, explained: “I have always felt a part of Bishop Bavin School and not just the Language School because I am able to participate in activities and other subjects. I also believe that without the language school I would have very little confidence in my English abilities.”
For Bishop Bavin School it is not only the focus on language that matters but more importantly providing an environment for the foreign child which is not intimidating. Academic performance is important, but so is developing a well-rounded and confident young person. Most of the Language School children expressed that when they arrived they had felt nervous and confused because they could not understand what was going on around them.
It was then up to our TEFL trained educators to put these children at ease. We always have to ensure with any new learner that begins at the school that a relationship of trust is developed and that the learners do not feel vulnerable. The environment created is very different to a general classroom situation and is often viewed as a more relaxed environment, but all of the learners have agreed that it is the most conducive to the type of learning that has to take place.
The children are exposed to games, puzzles, and a wide variety of “off-the-wall” teaching methods. They are encouraged to be themselves and to develop relationships with the other children in the class. At the moment our Language School consists of learners from Grade 2 – 10. The children do embrace each others’ cultural backgrounds and in fact often start teaching each other their own home languages such as Mandarin, French and Portuguese.
They tend to make this environment their own and they often become confident enough to make mistakes rather than just keep silent. Our Language School Educators are experienced TEFL teachers. They are well aware of the challenges faced by these foreign speakers and liaise continuously with subject specific teachers to ensure that the required support is offered to the children. The focus of the Language School teachers is not only to equip the foreign language speakers with English speaking ability, but also to assist them in adapting to a foreign culture.