The objective of the English without Frontiers curriculum is, of course, to teach learners with intellectual disabilities English as a foreign language. However, the needs of our target group differ in some respects from those of mainstream learners. As a consequence, our curriculum has a number of additional objectives.
Self esteem & pride
Many of our target group are reluctant learners: they have had negative experiences with school, they have low self esteem with respect to learning, and they are afraid of failing (and therefore: of trying). Many of our target group have never learned a foreign language before, some are convinced that learning a foreign language is “for other people”.
With the English without Frontiers curriculum we want to teach English, but we also want to change the low expectations and low self esteem of our participants into a feeling of pride in their own accomplishments. We want to change the participants’ fear of failing, into the excitement of learning new things. We want our participants to experience first-hand the pleasure and the benefits, of learning a foreign language.
Ready to use
Success is the best motivator. In our case: success in learning English. In the English without Frontiers curriculum we use a modified communicative approach to teach English as a foreign language to our participants. We focus on realistic, 'ready to use' English for direct personal contacts: 1-1 conversations about everyday topics.
- to guess and predict the meaning of highly redundant spoken English texts about everyday topics;
- to understand and respond (verbally or non-verbally) to a number of spoken everyday questions;
- to use a number of frequent, everyday phrases in a 1-1 conversation;
- to recognize a number of written English words in context;
- to copy English words;
- to find words and their translations in a special easy bilingual dictionary.
Common European Framework for Languages
In terms of the Common European Framework for Languages, the curriculum aims at level A1.
- can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type.
- can introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has.
- can interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.” (Common European Framework for Languages, page 24, http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/CADRE_EN.asp).