On Monday evening I was invited to Emirates Stadium in Arsenal by my friend Samir Singh who works for Arsenal in the Community’s education scheme called “Arsenal Double Club“.
Arsenal have been doing sterling work in the field of promoting Language learning in schools. Their “Double Club” programme (45 minutes in the classroom, 45 minutes of football) have been particularly effective in language teaching. Perhaps the primary reason for this is the passion for languages of their Manager, Arsène Wenger: “The fact that I learnt languages allowed me to be where I wanted to be – in English football,” says Arsène. “If you want to achieve your dreams, you can do it, and languages can certainly help you get there.”
By teaming up with the Institut Français, the Goethe-Institut, the Consejería de Educación, the Italian Cultural Institute, Routes into Languages and the European Comission (phew!) the Double Club programmes have produced a series of colourful and entertaining text-books and DVDs in the various languages. Every language activity is in some way related to football; there are quiz competitions based around personal and player profiles, crosswords, German football songs to sing, things to cut out, make and do and even Spanish football Sudoku.
Arsenal Double Club also organises language open days at the stadium: “The message to the kids when they’re standing in the stadium is: “The only reason you’re here is because you’re learning a language.”” And they respond to that. They respond to the fact that Arsene Wenger and Mikel Arteta speak 6 languages each.”
One of the highlights of the tour is when pupils are invited into the tiny pressrooms where players are interviewed immediately after a match (the ones with plenty of advertising in the background): they are asked questions in the language they are learning as though they were one of the big players. Classic!
Standing on the lush green turf, Samir tells me that the Emirates is a multifaceted prop for language teaching. “You can point to the big clock tower and say: “Quelle heure est-il?” or to the dates written in the stands and ask them to say the date.” For parts of the body there’s nothing easier than talking in French or German about where a player hit the ball or asking the pupils to create their own dream team using Spanish adjectives.
It was a fascinating tour and great to see a club as big as Arsenal take such initiatives in the field of MFL teaching. Good work the Gunners!
Here are some links to inspiring clips of Arsène Wenger talking about his love for languages. You can download all of these.