7 advises for improving accessibility of international courses for teachers.
In all those years of providing international courses for teachers we came to a conclusion that a low level of foreign language skills need not prevent teachers from attending mobility projects. Quite the opposite, in fact. Sometimes participants with low foreign language skills can benefit even more comparing to other participants. If all the stakeholders (participant, course provider, fellow teachers) put an effort into helping them, those experience can be really unforgettable for all. Here are some best practices and advices for improving accessibility of international trainings for teachers with low levels of English.
#1 Watch your thoughts. “I do not know English so I will only observe” or “I do not know English but I will put all my energy in and take something out.” It is such a big difference if a participant says the first or the second statement. The first statement leads him to passive position, the second statement gives him the courage to find different creative strategies for active participation.
#2 Proactive participant. Here are some strategies our participants use to understand as much as possible: drawings, body language, Google translator, language apps, pre-reading about the topic in their national language. The worst thing you can do is to isolate from group and say “I cannot learn because I do not understand the language”. Anything else is better. Even if you just sit together with the group, watch the members in the eyes and smile.
#3 Uncle Google helps me to learn. Ask the trainer to give you all the material in electronic version. You can use Google translator during the course to translate the necessary inputs. The translation is not perfect, of course, but it is enough to give you key ideas.
#4 Mobile phone is really handy. So many language apps for smartphones with immediate translation. It is not necessary to speak. You can write your messages when communicating.
#5 Go abroad in pairs. Together we achieve more. When you go abroad do not go alone. Take your fellow teacher who speaks English with you. It is so much fun learning together and share experience. And your colleague can help you to overcome the language barrier. Besides when you get home you will have more power to change things at your school because you will not be alone with new ideas.
#6 Peer support. Maybe you will have luck and one of other participants will speak your language. Ask for help and do not forget to give your colleague a present at the end of the course since translating is not an easy job and requires a lot of concentration.
#7 Also trainer is your ally. Ask your trainer to adapt some of the activities. Sometimes it is possible and sometimes it is not. But you do not know if you do not ask. Maybe trainer can prepare some of the materials in your language. Perhaps the trainer is able to prepare more nonverbal activities. Or she can arrange group work in national languages.
If there is a will, there is a way.
These are some of our experience and also findings of the international partnership IQAIST - Improving Quality and Accessibility in In-Service Trainings for Teachers in which our STEP Institute participates.