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The Learning Curve

The language of friendship
Paul Michael

You may have read my recent article in The Learning Curve. It was the memorably entitled ‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd’ - taken from the Welsh for ‘Do the little things in life’ - and focused on our wonderfully inclusive culture of internationalism here at MBIS. 

This was a message I reiterated in assembly recently which was inspired by an image I had seen a while ago online in The Guardian newspaper

guardian newspaper


Like all good infographics, there was something that caught my attention and resonated with what we’re doing every day here at school. Firstly, the attention grabbing part: what incredible design! As a student myself of language, literature, and culture, I am fascinated by how the languages we use, their intricacies and similarities, can tell us so much about how we are who we are. They often remind us of how close we are to one another, and how much shared heritage underpins our essential connectedness as individuals and as communities. If you’ve not read it already, The Geography of Thought, by Richard E. Nisbett is terrific on this topic. 

The piece also provided an opportunity for us to reflect in assembly on how we can be more aware of the power of language to connect, disconnect, confuse, and clarify our best intentions. At Mougins School, we have so many languages which could be spoken, and we seek to celebrate difference as much as we look to amplify cultural cohesion. I am so frequently heartened to see existing students welcoming new members of the school community into what will become firm friendships that I can almost take it for granted. It is a very Mougins thing to do. 

I also see, from time to time, students who are sometimes unable to join in a conversation or a friendship if they don’t understand the language being used. In these moments, we can be mindful of our difference, return to communication in English, our shared language of learning and community, and foster greater inclusivity. This is a kind thing to do. Indeed, it was something I appreciated when studying Japanese at Kyoto University and my Korean, Chinese, Bulgarian, and Portuguese friends switched back to Japanese to help include me in the conversation. These are good traits in communities and I am encouraged every day to see our students from all over the world continue to develop this culture of kinship and kindness. 


I am now going to enjoy dancing and singing in Spanish with our Primary students as we all celebrate Yellow Day with a mass zumba! For this, you can wish me luck in whichever language you choose!

Paul Michael
Head of Secondary

  • Secondary Matters