The Registrar reflects on the role that language and communication play in our professional and personal lives.
By Michael Salvatori, OCT
Photo: Matthew Plexman
"A pause in the wrong place, an intonation misunderstood, and a whole conversation went awry." I immediately related to this line from E.M. Forster’s novel A Passage to India the first time that I read it, and it has since become one of my favourite quotations. The quotation speaks to me of the power of language and its inextricable link to culture. As an additional language teacher (French and German), I am fascinated by languages and passionate about helping students to acquire an additional language and to understand the culture that the language is such an integral part of it.
During a recent trip to Berlin, I had the happy privilege of attending a lecture given by Waldermar Martyniuk from the European Centre for Modern Languages in which he cited the power of language education in a democratic society. Martyniuk enumerated the numerous value propositions that education, and language education in particular, offers including social cohesion and intercultural dialogue.
This notion of social cohesion resonates strongly with me as I consider the role that language and communication play in our professional lives as teachers. We use language in the classroom and beyond for a variety of purposes such as explaining, modelling, directing, praising, demonstrating and giving feedback.
We use language to make connections with students’ lived experiences, to create and sustain inclusive learning environments, and to contribute to the broader societal goal of cohesion, mutual understanding and respect. A teacher’s language is one of the most important and powerful tools that a teacher has.
Ensuring the language proficiency of all applicants for certification is a responsibility that the College takes seriously in protecting and serving the public interest. Recently, the College, in partnership with Registrars for Teacher Certification in the other Canadian jurisdictions and with support from the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, has developed a language proficiency assessment in English and French for the purpose of certification. The assessment, which is anticipated to move to the pilot stage this year, uses authentic teacher tasks as the test items. Please visit our Facebook page/website to see a report on the development of the innovative assessment.
The College is also committed to supporting its members in assisting students to develop their language skills, and in recognizing and appreciating the diverse languages and cultures that are part of our social fabric. The recently revised additional qualifications in the area of English as a Second Language, French as a Second Language and the inclusive classroom offer evidence of this commitment.
To return to E.M. Forster’s quotation, understanding cultural and linguistic differences and valuing them helps keep us on the right — rather than the awry — course.
In an increasingly multicultural and multilingual society, it is essential that teachers demonstrate a respect and appreciation of a variety of languages and cultures. The cultural congruity between home and school is of paramount importance in building the self-esteem and identity of students from different cultures and linguistic backgrounds. For additional information on this topic, please see cea-ace.ca/education-canada/article/competent-and-valued. Consider posting some of these words in your classroom or school. See below for answers.
1. “Thank you” in Algonquin and Cree, 2. “Wonderful” in German, 3. “Welcome” in Italian, 4. “Thank you” in Japanese, 5. “Where are you from?” in Spanish, 6. “Please” in American Sign Language.