As first, it seems an odd concept: To learn a language through sport or other physical activities. What is the connection?
Firstly, by physically doing an activity we are not only immersing kids in another language, but we are making the process of exploring a new culture with something fun. To really understand and learn another language, you also need to understand the culture.
Sports and games can help to cross barriers. Starting with the same rules means that we focus on similarities, not differences. From naming the items we are using, such as a ball or net, to explaining rules and everyday language, such as ‘your turn’. We can understand cultural etiquette, how you greet someone and how you thank them at the end of a game.
An activity or sport allows you to see, do and experience. To practice what you have learned.
By using physical games and sports we strip away the social confines of a traditional classroom. Although structured, a fun physical setting can allow the space for kids to question why something is different as they are doing it. We hold space for them to explore their curiosity. Through a game or activity, we can normalise and celebrate differences.
There is a lot of research about the benefits of learning another language at a young age. But after sitting in class all day and then completing their homework, the truth is that wrangling kids to undertake more academic activities can feel like a losing battle.
So why don’t we collaborate more? My hope is that through play we can encourage curiosity instead of judgement about the things that make us different. That we can foster critical thinking skills, and our children are engaged with their world to foster a love of learning through new experiences.