Dulwich College embarked on its Free Learning enterprise, “Dulwich Linguistic” in November 2016. The week saw the whole school crossing frontiers into the languages and cultures of countries beyond the English-speaking world. It challenged linguistic limits, perception of how we see ourselves in a rapidly shrinking world and heightened appreciation of communication in all its forms.
Dulwich Linguistic transformed all parts of the College into a melting pot of events and activities crossing the imaginary divides between languages, science, music, mathematics, academia, business and sport. Every day engaged pupils in a cornucopia of opportunity. During one day, for example, boys could make their protest through the creative medium of screen-printing, be transported to Renaissance Italy, learn about the phonetics of ventriloquism and speed-date in Classical Hebrew.
In a celebration of all things linguistic, boys shared their favourite words, phrases and ideas via the lesson “hijack” and “videobooth”. The clips and phrases were given a platform for the whole community via big screens and on the school’s intranet. Special guest Huw Edwards led a career-focussed Question Time with Year 11 and a panel of linguists drawn from academia, business and journalism whilst other visiting speakers led seminars on topics ranging from linguistics to international sports journalism via French classical comedy.
Communication in all its forms was a cornerstone of the week and boys grasped the opportunity to learn about different languages including Classical Hebrew and Old Norse, art in the modern and classical worlds and theatre and music. The College was uplifted by music throughout the week from impromptu guitar group flashmobs to more formal events. We were fortunate to welcome Miss Susan Bullock CBE, as guest of honour to one of our two evenings of French, German and Spanish music. A sign language interpreter visited our Kindergarten and groups visited the Courtauld Gallery and Deutsche Bank. Dulwich College Beijing pupils were interviewed in Chinese during an assembly, drawing on the global Dulwich Commonwealth of schools and OAs joined our Chinese Business afternoon to talk about their experiences of living and working in China.
A week such as this would not have been complete without stretching perceptions and ideas of what language means. Pupils engaged strongly with thought-provoking talks and activities from across a wide range of disciplines. Physical challenges included a “Tour de Dulwich”, a Kung Fu demonstration, a Fencing Master Class in Italian and the Kindergarten and Year 9 formation of the Chinese character for Friend - “péngyou” - on the 1st XI outfield that was photographed from the air.
There was a real sense of linguistic purpose about the College throughout the week, with boys rushing from one activity to another and challenging, celebrating and communicating on many different levels.
“The week served many different purposes. It was first of all a chance to diversify from the normal curriculum, that can often be constraining, and show that there is more to language than learning vocab and memorising verb endings. The week was also a chance to encourage the study of language and the immersion in a variety of cultures with ideas that are different from our own.” Luke Jensen-Jones, Year 9
“Its effects will stay with the school for a long time. I do wonder what the next November event will be?” James Lyon, Year 9