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Advantages of learning a foreign language


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#1 Graham Davies

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  • Interests:I began my career as a teacher of German and French in secondary education in 1965, moving into higher education in 1971, where I taught German (and also English as a Foreign Language to students training to become professional translators) until 1993. I have been involved in Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) since 1976. In 1982 I wrote one of the first introductory books on computers in language learning and teaching, which was followed by numerous other printed and software publications. In 1989 I was conferred with the title of Professor of CALL by the Academic Board of Ealing College of Higher Education (later integrated into Thames Valley University). I retired from full-time teaching in 1993 but I continued to work as a Visiting Professor for Thames Valley University until 2001. I was the Founder President of EUROCALL, holding the post from 1993 to 2000. I am a partner in Camsoft, a CALL software development and consultancy business, which was founded in 1982. I have lectured and run ICT training courses for language teachers in 22 different countries and I sit on a number of national and international advisory boards and committees. I have been actively involved in WorldCALL since 1998 and I currently head a working party that is in the process of setting up WorldCALL as an official organisation that aims to assist countries that are currently underserved in the area of ICT and the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages. I am fluent in German, I speak tolerable French, and I can survive in Italian, Russian and Hungarian. I enjoy golf, skiing, walking my dog (a retired racing greyhound) and travelling. I used to scuba-dive regularly - my last dive was on the Great Barrier Reef in 1998 - but now I just swim at my local fitness centre.

Posted 13 December 2004 - 10:27 AM

According to a recent survey, knowing a foreign language can boost your income, and foreign language speakers are also seen as sexier, more intelligent and more interesting:
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.u...ion/3966413.stm

But this year the government removed the requirement for all children in England to study a foreign language to GCSE level. So, is it the government's aim to produce a poorer, boring, less intelligent and less sexy population?

#2 Graham Davies

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 04:21 PM

There's a big debate going on at the BBC website:

http://news.bbc.co.u...int/4443911.stm

which contains many public reactions to a news item on the claim made in a House of Lords report that poor language skills are having a negative effect on Britain's business performance - relating to the current situation in state secondary schools in England (Note: England, NOT Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland) whereby foreign languages only have to be studied by children up to the age of 14. Most of the reactions are positive about studying foreign languages, but there are quite a few that support the view that there is no point in learning a foreign language as all the world trades in English.

What do YOU think?

#3 Audrey McKie

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Posted 05 May 2005 - 11:06 PM

After a very long absence and getting my password back, I am back onto this forum!!!

foreign languages only have to be studied by children up to the age of 14. Most of the reactions are positive about studying foreign languages, but there are quite a few that support the view that there is no point in learning a foreign language as all the world trades in English.


Graham, it seems we are again revisiting some old grounds with this debate about learning languages. It seems that those who do know languages are the only ones to see the benefit of such learning. Do you think we should consider the problem from a different angle? I have been thinking for some time that we are the victims of some frustrated, hung-up people who'd rather adopt the 'politique de l'autruche' than face their own short-comings. My poiny being that it is easier to bring every boody down to your level than raise yourself to theirs...

Another point I wished to make on this forum was the inconsistencies of governmental decisions in terms of language learning and language teaching. The appearance of the KS3 Strategy seemed an excellent opportubity to make (or try to make) languages accessible to all within a well-thought framework. I read most of it to prepare for an interview, and for once I was quite impressed. The problem is that the next step has been that languages are basically being scrapped from the curricular map for the over 14s. Education in general and languages in particular are suffering from the lack of governmental stability in terms of Education Secretary. I've only been teaching three years (4 if you include my PGCE) and I'm already down to my third Ed Sec!!!

As for a world where every body speaks English, I can only disagree with such statement. First of all, some English-speakers should start by speaking English properly - every day I, the foreigner, have to correct my pupils, the British, on how to speak English properly, let alone another language.... Furthermore, I can definitely say that learning a language, or more than one, helps develop a more analytical and comparative conceptualisation of language in general which in turn helps speakers master their mother tongue better. I am currently learning my fourth language :wacko: :angel and it's never been so easy! I admit that it's taken me 16 years to get to that statement but it was worth it. Needless to remind ourselves, as well, of the benefits of language learning in terms of understanding different cultures and customs, the promotion of tolerance and acceptance, concepts which should be at the heart of the political debate, rather than rejection, ignorance and intolerance as some of our politicians and/or TV-presenters have suggested on air....

I have been away for a long time so I had a lot to say. Hopefully I will return sooner than in 6 months' time this time.... :D

#4 Graham Davies

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Posted 06 May 2005 - 09:59 AM

Well said, Audrey! Let's see what the new government does about it - but I fear we are in for more of the same.

Languages have suffered as a result of the introduction of the performance tables. Headteachers are not well disposed to languages because, being skill-oriented, they require a larger number of hours on the timetable than a subject that one can simply read about. It's estimated by the Council of Europe that around 350-400 learning hours are required to achieve CEF Level B1 (which theoretically corresponds to GCSE).

I compare learning a language to learning to play a musical instrument, namely you only develop the skill to a high level if you practise every day. Similarly, to be good at sports you have to practise regularly. I wonder if Beckham would have got where he is if he had not practised every day.

But, as Audrey points out, knowledge of a foreign language also gives insights into foreign cultures and customs, and it raises awareness of one's mother tongue. One of the reasons why English native speakers are so sloppy is that they are often completely unaware of the way their own language works. I learned most of my English grammar from my German teacher at school.

#5 Audrey McKie

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Posted 07 May 2005 - 03:18 PM

One of the reasons why English native speakers are so sloppy is that they are often completely unaware of the way their own language works.


I would like to meet the person who decided that British children did not need to know the grammar of their own language and tell them what I think of that decision! How much more difficult our job is when we constantly have to correct pupils' speech, their writing, etc... let alone teach them anything worthwhile! This is so frustrating! :ph34r:

Let's see what our newly appointed governement decides to do about the appalling state of Education

#6 Cigdem Göle

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Posted 10 August 2008 - 10:30 PM

According to a recent survey, knowing a foreign language can boost your income, and foreign language speakers are also seen as sexier, more intelligent and more interesting:
BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.u...ion/3966413.stm

Let's see…I know (and also teach) English, a little German and French but…I haven't noticed
any boosting in my salary so far. I still have hope, though.


As for foreign language speakers' seen as sexier, more intelligent and more interesting
than those who are monolingual, I find this to be too much of a generalisation.
It all depends on what the person has done to be productive to contribute to the society he/she lives in.


But this year the government removed the requirement for all children in England to study a foreign language to GCSE level. So, is it the government's aim to produce a poorer, boring, less intelligent and less sexy population?


Another point is, nowadays the only purpose for the students who learn a foreign language
is to find a better job. It's the only motivation for these young people and sadly, learning a foreign
language for self-improvement is the last of their interests.






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