Monday, 20 September 2010

ALL Together For Languages: My Response

1. I would like the media and the decision-makers to move away from constant reports that we are not good at languages “as a nation”. Good linguistic role-models should be publicized more widely rather than make them look like the geeky exception. I find there is sometimes a snobbish attitude about monolingual people that makes you feel that, if you are making the effort to learn somebody else’s language, you are losing your Britishness and you are somewhat letting the side down… Monolinguism should be portrayed as an exception, not multilinguism. I feel there is also a lot to be done to educate the public so that they do not feel that teaching a child another language from a young age might “confuse” them or “hold them back”.

2. I find it incredible that despite the fact that so many of us are trying so hard to make our subject accessible and interesting, we are always hit by the argument that “language teaching puts most people off learning a language”. There are endless discussions about poor literacy and numeracy skills in the media but never any link with the teaching… I sometimes feel that this attitude is caused by some parents who are not aware of the sweeping changes that have occurred in the teaching of languages since they went to school and their bad memories are passed on to their children…

I cannot understand how languages are considered the least important in the curriculum when they overlap with so many key skills such as literacy and oracy. Then again, a serious information campaign is needed to get parents from all backgrounds to understand that languages are not just useful to order a drink whilst abroad… and to get rid of the “for middle class only” tag.

3. I am very worried that there is currently a very unequal access to studying a language in secondary schools. It seems that unless you are in a language college, where languages have the status of a core subject, the position of languages is far too vulnerable for such a strategically important subject. Some safeguards need to be offered by our government to ensure that studying a language is encouraged in ALL types of schools, as languages should be seen as a core skill. I am very excited at the prospect of an English “bacc” model of reporting exam results but I am also very worried that this would only take into account a GCSE, when it is clearly not an inclusive qualification.

4. Decision makers should reward schools who encourage ALL students to take some kind of qualifications in a foreign language, and not just a GCSE. Qualifications could be weighed but effort to study and take an examination in a language should be acknowledged and rewarded. If not studying a language cannot be used as a shortcut to better looking exam results for schools, there should be every incentive for senior teams in secondary schools to give languages the important place it deserves in the secondary curriculum.

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