The Importance of Speaking the Language of Your School

Support the development of a methodology for teaching Bulgarian language to students whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian

Imagine you’re about to start school this year. You’re probably excited. School is something new and you can’t wait to see what it’s like. It’s intriguing, everyone keeps talking about it, you can’t wait to meet all the other kids and learn so many new things. After all, school is where you have to be until you grow up – it is where you grow up.

Now imagine you finally go to school, but you don’t understand anything. No one speaks your language, the language you talk to your parents at home, the language you and your friends speak in your neighborhood. You can see that your teacher is smiling, but you have no idea what she is saying, you don’t understand most of your classmates. You don’t understand the subjects you’re supposed to learn. It’s even hard to tell them apart because they’re all in a language you don’t understand.

To us, who can read this text, this story is most likely hypothetical, but it is the reality for many children in Bulgaria. Children who were born in Bulgaria, Bulgarian citizens, who, however, live in bilingual communities – their mother tongue is not Bulgarian. The majority of these children are Roma, but other minorities are faced with the same challenge: refugees, migrants, and people whose mother tongue is Turkish.

ROMA CHILDREN ARE THE MOST VULNERABLE ONES

20% of all children who start school in Bulgaria are not native speakers of Bulgarian. This data was quoted by Deputy Minister of Education Denitsa Sacheva at the Future of Education Conference in 2018.

A study from 2013 called Geschlossene Gesellschaft Zur Lage der Roma in Bulgarien, commissioned by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, found that 55% of Roma families in Bulgaria don’t speak Bulgarian at home. According to the same study, 22% of all Roma have no formal education and 19% of all Roma adults in Bulgaria are illiterate.

Teach For Bulgaria teachers share that the most common reason why their bilingual students lag behind are their poor language skills – they don’t speak Bulgarian. These students have difficulties mastering their lessons and learning new skills, they feel misunderstood and unsuccessful. This puts them at a great risk of dropping out.

TEACHERS ARE UNEQUIPPED TO TEACH BULGARIAN TO CHILDREN WHOSE MOTHER TONGUE IS NOT BULGARIAN

In addition to the above-mentioned data, a good enough methodology for teaching Bulgarian as a second language hasn’t been developed yet. This presents a serious challenge for teachers who work with bilingual students. There is a complete lack of educational resources for additional language training and support tailored to the specifics of our Bulgarian context and the age of the bilingual students.

This is why there is an urgent need to develop effective concepts and educational resources for teachers working with bilingual children.

The lack of specialized methodology and educational resources provoked us at Teach For Bulgaria and our partners at EducArt to develop functional, practical, and useful Bulgarian language training tools for primary school students (grades 2 – 4) as part of a brand new project in support of every child’s equal access to quality education.

BUILDING ON EXPERIENCE

This joint initiative builds on the best practices from a previous successful project which supports Bulgarian language training for children in preschool and first grade. The educational resources “Bulgarian for Multilingual Children with Drako and Mimi” have been developed as part of this project. Partnering with the authors of these resources at EducArt, our next goal is to develop a language acquisition program for older students – grades 2, 3, and 4.

Find out more about the project – goals, objectives, key actions, and time frame – here.

HELP US MAKE SCHOOL UNDERSTANDABLE FOR ALL CHILDREN IN BULGARIA

 

Teach For Bulgaria supporter Nguyen Le and his Bulgarian colleagues at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) initiated a Global Giving fundraising campaign in August. Anyone who would like to help us in the first stage of the project (the development of a diagnostic tool for determining the level of Bulgarian language proficiency for primary school students whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian) is more than welcome to make a donation.

EBRD (via its Community Initiative) has agreed to support our efforts by matching all donations from private donors for this fundraiser, up to 50,000 EUR.

You can make a donation here.

Find out more about Nguyen and why he chose to support this project here.


Yavor Atanasov, one of our other supporters based in London, is also going to help raise funds for this project whose execution is going to start in September of 2019. Yavor is going to challenge himself for a cause for a second time – this year with a fundraising bike ride around Iceland. His first challenge was back in 2017 when he supported Teach For Bulgaria with a fundraising solo bike ride from London to Barcelona – you can find more information about it here.

If you have any other ideas to support this project or Teach For Bulgaria, do not hesitate to get in touch with our Development team at development@zaednovchas.bg.

In the next few months we’ll be sharing more about our partners at EducArt who are experts at developing and applying contemporary teaching methods, especially Bulgarian language training of children who are not native speakers of Bulgarian. We are also going to give you more information about how Teach For Bulgaria teachers work with bilingual students in order to make school more accessible and useful for them.

сътрудник "Маркетинг и комуникации" в "Заедно в час"