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Graham Davies

Lost for Words - Teachers' TV Video

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Have a look at this video on Teachers' TV:

"School Matters - Lost for Words"

http://www.teachers.tv/video/3420

It's just what we need for highlighting the problems that have been caused by making modern languages an optional subject beyond age 14. The need for languages in exporting goods from the UK is mentioned and the way in which primary school languages are being handled is criticised. The idea that languages are difficult and causes headteachers to promote other subjects so that their schools' positions in the league tables doesn't suffer also features in the video, etc. In other words, everything that we have been shouting about for years!

I particularly like the bit in which a Frenchmen tries to find his way to the station in Birmingham, stopping passers-by and speaking only French. After several failed attempts he eventually finds a young woman who can give him directions in French, but he misses his train - symbolic!

This video should be compulsory viewing for headteachers, businesses, parents and, of course, students considering giving up languages after the age of 14.

You can download the video and save it locally if you register with Teachers' TV. The video is subject to a Creative Archive Licence, which gives you considerable freedom in publicising it and disseminating it. See the above URL for details.

As usual, the waffle and excuses from the Department for Education and Skills in the video fails to impress!

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Read these two articles too:

By Philip Hensher in The Independent, 6 Decemebr 2006:

"If only Estelle Morris had learned French"

http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnist...icle2040149.ece

Just what we need to back up our views on the downward spiral of modern foreign languages in secondary education that is having a knock-on effect on higher education.

At the BBC site, 4 December 2006:

"Languages 'should be compulsory': Universities say many pupils do not have the chance to study languages. Heads of languages at dozens of top universities are calling on the government to reverse a decision allowing pupils to drop language study. University College London is even considering making it compulsory for new entrants to have a language GCSE."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6205914.stm

Is this the answer? An O-level in a foreign language, along with English and Maths or a Science subject, was a university entrance requirement when I applied for a university place in the early 1960s, regardless of the subject one intended to study. I recall a friend of mine who studied Aeronautical Engineering complaining about having to get an O-level in French - which took him several attempts. He dismissed French as a "useless" subject - until he got his first job, working on Concorde in Bristol and having to travel regularly to Toulouse to collaborate with French engineers.

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University College London is even considering making it compulsory for new entrants to have a language GCSE."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6205914.stm

Is this the answer? An O-level in a foreign language, along with English and Maths or a Science subject, was a university entrance requirement when I applied for a university place in the early 1960s, regardless of the subject one intended to study.

Short answer: yes.

I can't see any other way of reversing the decline in foreign language learning in the UK. The idea that resources are being diverted to younger learners seems a bit fanciful to me. The hard message I have to deliver on in-service training courses for primary school English teachers here in Sweden is that you need your best and most-qualified teachers to teach the beginners … but guess where those teachers usually end up (not in the primary sector …). So the idea that unqualified or poorly-qualified primary language teachers are going to instil a love of languages which is so strong that there'll be a resurge in demand for MFL at secondary level in about 5 years time seems strongly counter-intuitive to me.

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