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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 22 September 2018
22 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2018 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Maria F Tridimas, responsible for the Program’s design and coordination. Teaching Greek through an innovative peer mentoring approach Two years after the start of the ‘Melbourne - Athens: A Journey of Friendship’ education program, its coordinator writes about the outcome BY MARIA FILIO TRIDIMAS the key issues that has significantly concerned the Greek community, because although important initiatives have taken place over the years, we still deal with the challenges today. Due to my mother's migration trajectory and my young cousins' experiences around Greek language acquisition, the issue of Greek language learning and teaching began to concern me personally two years ago. In fact, it concerned me to the extent that during that T he future of Greek language learning has been one of period, I decided to design and develop an educational initiative entitled 'Melbourne – Athens: A Journey of Friendship', which was successfully implemented for two years. Occasioned by the imminent Conference 'Connecting and Interconnecting Communities and Landscapes: Reclaiming Greece as a field of Studies, Teaching and Research in the 21st Century' at Macquarie University in December and my recent discussion with Dr Stavroula Nikoloudis of the Greek studies Department of Languages and Linguistics at La Trobe University on the future of Greek language learning, this article aims at encouraging the dialogue and mobilising the community of teachers for more effective initiatives. Greek language learning and its challenges Greek language learning and effective pedagogical interventions remain a very complex issue. To efficiently support an educational initiative, one must have knowledge around the Greek language learning environment and address the individual factors that affect Greek language learning - i.e. students' and parents' attitudes towards Greek language learning, as well as the language policy of both the Victorian and Greek state. The 'Melbourne – Athens: A Journey of Friendship' educational initiative focused exclusively on the factors that relate to students' attitudes concerning Greek learning by addressing students' needs in a very contemporary way. Nowadays, the students who attend after-school Greek language programs are mostly third generation immigrants - this means that the majority of these students grow up with parents who were born and raised in Australia. In many cases, they grow up in intermarriage environments. Therefore, Greek is not the main language spoken at home. Most students who attend after-school Greek language programs learn Greek because they wish to communicate and engage effectively with their grandparents (yiayia and pappou). The opportunities for these students to speak Greek with peers are extremely limited and may arise only if they participate in a student exchange program, or travel to Greece. Students' disengagement for Greek language learning becomes more apparent, when their responsibilities and obligations to their mainstream school increase. It has been observed that when students' obligations increase, they often drop out from attending afterschool Greek language programs (usually during Year 10) or it pushes them to classify Greek language learning as a second priority. ‘Melbourne - Athens: A Journey of Friendship’ program Within this framework I designed the 'Melbourne – Athens: A Journey of Friendship' program that was implemented from 2016 to 2018 with the Hellenic American Educational Foundation (Psychico College) and the Greek Community of Melbourne's Language and Culture Schools (Balwyn Campus & Doncaster) and Alphington Grammar. The aim of the program was to facilitate the needs of the Greek language schools’ students in oral communication and foster intercultural awareness and skills for all students, because although they share Greek heritage, they have grown up in different countries. At its core, the program is established on the technology, one-on-one peer mentoring, and distance learning triptych for acquiring the Greek language. Year 10 students of the Hellenic American Educational Foundation (Psychico College) play the mentors and Year 9 students of the GCM's Language and Culture Schools are the program's mentees. On the basis of its design, mentors and mentees meet online (via Skype) once a week, for 40 minutes to communicate in Greek. The Program’s mentors celebrating the Program at the School’s annual Panigyri (Athens). The Program’s mentees (Greek Community of Melbourne’s Language and Culture Schools). The Program’s mentors celebrating the Program at the School’s annual Panigyri (Athens).
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