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Language in Exchange

It all started with a young English teacher in Germany looking for an Australian partner school to participate in a short e-mail exchange project with her students. It progressed to six weeks of e-mailing during Term 1 and finished, if that is the right expression, with some friendships that will last beyond the duration of the project.

That was the story of two Year 8 German classes last term. There is more to the story, though I will mention only the plot, the characters and the moral at the end.

The plot was to find a more innovative and creative way for the Year 8 students to go over the language basics as part of their Term 1 revision unit. The plot was ‘keeping it real’ – a native speaking audience of roughly the same age, communicating in real time about real things in the real world. It was also about the opportunity to write not only for the writing practice sake, but also as preparation for assessment.

The characters were, of course, the students. And what a range of characters we had! Some buddies were very well organised, task focused and on time, others were very laid back when interpreting the instructions and deadlines as well as the dedication expected. Some characters developed exceptionally throughout the story, while some stayed the same.

And so you may ask what was the moral of the story? Most certainly that you can bring a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.

On a final reflection, I will deviate from the theme of this article. The exchange was a wonderful experience despite some technical hiccups and inconsistent effort from some of our students. Those who participated actively have gained a lot from this exchange, not only linguistically but also personally. For the rest it was a good wake-up call about missing opportunities and creating unintended perceptions when not sticking to their part of the bargain.

I hope that at least some students will continue with their new international friendships, even if infrequently, and that they will be kept on their toes by the German buddies, using German to some degree when communicating with each other.

Viel Spaβ beim Schreiben!

Mrs Ingrid Pride
Acting Language Coordinator