Reflections on finishing the first year
A year has passed since we started the project “Living in Latvia – learning Latvian”. During this year more than 170 third country nationals have been educated in 13 groups with a different Latvian language skills level. It has to be emphasized that the teachers’ task was not only to help the course participants to learn the Latvian language and to prepare for passing the state language proficiency test but also to promote the inclusion of these people in the education system, labor market and the culture space of Latvia.
Thus, it was important to explore what experience the Latvian language teachers gained, what challenges they faced when teaching the Latvian language to the third country nationals.
In order to find out the teachers’ opinion we interviewed the six teachers who taught the Latvian language in the project.
The following answers were received to the first question (What gave you satisfaction in this work?):
- The possibility to work with people of different cultures.
- The openness of the course participants, their inquisitiveness and willingness to learn the Latvian language.
- The positive attitude of the course participants towards the teacher and learning.
- The interest of the course participants in what happens in Latvia.
- The idea that the majority of the course participants truly want to live here and love Latvia.
- The possibility to get acquainted with people coming from different cultures.
- The possibility to see the results of teaching already during the teaching/learning process.
- The possibility to gain new experience.
Teachers gave the following answers to the second question (Which were the greatest challenges teaching the Latvian language in polylingual groups?):
- Different level of the Latvian language in the polylingual groups.
- The teacher’s limited possibilities to give answers to the questions or to explain what has not been understood due to the lack of a medium language because very often the course participants know only their mother tongue.
- Consolidation of the group.
- Adjusting the teaching/learning materials to the diverse interests and needs of the course participants because some of the participants are already looking for job, others are interested in social services and guarantees, still others are concerned with possibilities of acquiring higher education, interested in culture, etc.
- The teaching of the Latvian language to people whose language does not belong to the Indo-European group of languages.
- The stereotypes that the course participants have about how to learn the language.
The third question (What problems do you encounter in your everyday life teaching the Latvian language classes?) most frequently received answers that are connected with the course participants’ life, unforeseen conditions or human factors. The most frequently mentioned problems are the following:
- The tiredness the course participants experienced at the end of the day when attending the evening groups.
- Unforeseen changes in the participants’ lives due to which they can no longer attend the classes or they have to miss them. For instance, change of the job or the dwelling place, going away because of the family reasons, studies, etc.
- Participants’ insufficient skills of learning.
- Participants’ inability to accept the different.
Four teachers consider the lack of a common study book for the B level language skills to be a serious problem in teaching the language. All teachers pointed out the great importance of the work done out-of-class time in the interview: correction of the participants’ home tasks, placing the materials in the internet, communication with the course participants before passing the language proficiency test, joint activities. For instance, a joint group photo session in which the participants acquaint each other with national dishes, a visit to the exhibition, going together to the café. The course participants can also surprise positively devoting a self-written poem in the Latvian language to their teacher.
The project team expresses gratitude to the teachers for the work well-done and the course participants for their patience, the time invested in learning and their positive attitude.