e.twinning projects – motivation for language learning/intercultural awareness

Author(s): Maria do Carmo Goncalves
Institution/Organisation: Regional Direction of Education of the Algarve


1.1 Scope of project

This is a national programme created following signature of a protocol on cooperation in the field of education on 10 April 2006 in Paris between the Ministry of Education of the Portuguese Republic and the Ministry of National Education of the French Republic.

This protocol, which is based on the desire to improve the teaching of foreign languages and to encourage multilingualism, relates to the teaching of Portuguese in France and of French in Portugal.

Following signature of the protocol and in view of the need to set norms for the project, a document was approved defining the European Sections of the French Language (Sections Européennes de Language Française (SELF), which sets out a list of recommendations aiming to facilitate follow-up and evaluation of the first phase of the experiment by the Ministry of Education.

The first phase of the experiment covers a period of three years starting in academic year 2006/2007.

Development of these sections is in line with the context of  the relevant European Directives and, notably, with the text entitled “Promotion of Teaching of European Languages and Linguistic Diversity: A Plan of Action” published by the European Commission. The present experiment was initiated in the Algarve at the Escola Básica dos 2º e 3º Ciclos nº2 de Quarteira.

The European section of the French language at the E.B.2,3 nº2 de Quarteira was opened at the start of the academic year 2006 for a period of two years, and involves the 8th and 9th year ‘collège’ (roughly junior secondary school) classes which have completed the cycle corresponding in Portugal to primary school in France (3rd cycle).

The start of the project was marked by a high degree of creativity and dynamic input from the young teachers. These teachers, fired by a desire to see their pupils succeed, saw the teaching of a non-linguistic subject in French as a response to demotivation of their pupils who, regarding it from the less favourable position of the persons receiving the tuition, had rather tended to lose sight of the interesting aspects of learning a subject in a foreign language.

The project arrangements stipulated teaching of mathematics (part of the timetable) in French. The classes involved in the SELF started the experiment in ‘collège’ in the 8th. year, although the experiment was supposed to cover a full cycle (7th, 8th and 9th years). But the school was of the opinion, after analysis of the characteristics of the pupils, that these two classes were the most suitable for inclusion in the project.

Thus, the constitution of the study group was as follows:
9th A – class integrated with 22 pupils, 16 boys and 6 girls, average age 14-15 years;
9th C – class integrated with 19 pupils, 10 boys and 9 girls, average age 14-15 years.

1.2 Range of languages studied

In Portugal study of a second language starts in the 2nd educational cycle and there is a choice between French, English and German. Certain schools already offer Spanish during this cycle on an experimental basis. Pupils at nursery school (maternelle) have their first contact with English at this level, but this is a very recent development in educational policy.

Virtually all the 2nd cycle pupils in the Algarve are studying English. This is not attributable to the imposition of any educational policy, but more to the fact that, since the 1980s, the pupils and families in this region have veered towards English for a number of reasons. Two foreign languages are studied as from the 3rd cycle, one of which is the language chosen in the 2nd cycle, plus a second language where there is a choice between French, English German or Spanish.
In the present case, the pupils studied English during the 2nd cycle and then chose French as the second language (LV II), which enabled the start of the SELF experiment. When the teacher responsible for the second language spoke to them about the European sections, they opted for it voluntarily.

1.3 Learning outcomes

It can be assumed that learning mathematics in a foreign language will strengthen motivation to learn that language, mainly because of the broader interdisciplinary element involved and the opportunity to learn a vocabulary which had not been studied previously. In addition, the pupils have contact with other sections studying different non-linguistic syllabuses.

In the final analysis, the purpose of the European sections is to promote intra-community exchanges, both real and virtual, a purpose which is fulfilled within the framework of the section now under review.

1.4 Practical realisation

The teachers responsible for this project are the school’s coordinator of languages, the French teacher and the mathematics teacher. The European section is integrated into the school’s educational project.
The pupils study mathematics in two languages: in their native language and in French during one part of the lesson (45’). During this part due allowance must be made for the fluency status of the pupils and some parts of the tuition may be given in Portuguese during the initial months. This is necessary in order to facilitate a smooth transfer to the lessons subsequently given in French only. The programme, the syllabuses and the objectives are those which have been accepted by mathematics teachers and are based on specific directions and advice given by the Portuguese Ministry of Education. The foreign language (French) is stepped up (45’) in order to facilitate expansion of the subjects discussed to include socio-cultural, historical and literary aspects of French-speaking countries.

Work performed in a non-linguistic discipline DNL) but in lessons conducted in a foreign language is subjected to qualitative evaluation.

The Portuguese Ministry of Education and the French Embassy are following this project closely by making coordinated visits to the school, holding specific training courses for the teachers involved, holding meetings with the players in other sections and by providing specific documentation on official programmes running in the two countries and on teaching within the framework of the EMILE project.

The group (teachers and pupils) makes study visits to other schools involved in the same project and undertakes a wide range of cultural activities together. For example, the section from the Quarteira school was a driving force behind the meeting of French language European sections held at Tocha in May 2008.

The possibility of creating a Franco-Portuguese, or even a European certification is being studied.

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