This activity originated from looking at all of the academic word of the week photos shown in an earlier post. So many words are similar, even in languages with different scripts. So now after a content-based lesson (Geography, Science, Food, IT and so on), I’ll have students play a game in which one of them comes to the front and says a sentence in their home language using key vocabulary from that lesson. The other students then have to guess what the student has said. The real aim of this activity is, of course, for the students who are listening to activate new key vocabulary in order to try and find a solution. Even though it may well be difficult to work out the correct answer as students sometimes don’t recognise any of the words being used, all students will be using the target language while guessing and, if necessary, the student at the front (or the teacher) can always give a hint. It’s such a fun activity and the learners feel genuinely happy and proud when they use their language in front of their classmates.
Using activities such as these is not only about progress and linguistic ability, but also – perhaps even more crucially – about international-mindedness and creating an atmosphere of belonging and wellbeing. We should treat the students’ cultural knowledge and home languages as precious resources. Let them show off and feel proud of their language. It is the language they will connect new learning with.