The power of technology in developing children's language skills

May 2012
As the world becomes more and more globalised it is increasingly important for children to master foreign languages. Many schools already teach a modern foreign language from Key Stage 2, and some from as early as foundation stage, to equip children with the skills needed to succeed in an ever-changing world.

Successive studies have shown that bilingualism can actually increase intelligence. Bilingualism improves the brain's so-called executive function — this is the command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing a variety of mentally demanding tasks.

The nature of teaching languages in schools has changed shape over the last few years alongside developments in technology.

The British Council has recently announced that its English language learning software will be pre-loaded on up to 100 million computers for use in schools across the globe by 2015.

The initiative is being made possible by Intel, as part of its drive to give students greater access to low-cost devices.

The new technology has the potential to revolutionise English language learning, according to Michael Carrier, Director of English language development at the British Council:

'The concept of 'one-to-one' education, where every student has a laptop or tablet that they can also take home, opens up new possibilities for classroom pedagogy in ELT, new ways to support learning with authentic language input and new ways to expand learning beyond the classroom.'Below are some other ways that technology can enhance children's command of languages:

Language labs: These allow text, images, audio, and video to be integrated easily into lesson plans. This will help to cater for the needs of children with a variety of learning styles, including both audio and visual. They also allow students to record their own voices and play them back so that they can improve their intonation.

Interactive games: Playing interactive games as part of whole class teaching via a Smartboard or on computers in an ICT suite can help children become more engaged by language learning. This also extends to language learning apps on Smartphones and computer tablets.