Foreign Languages Should Be Taught Says Foreign Language Teacher

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Apparently it’s a horror that British kids can’t speak other languages. They must be forced to do so.

Learning foreign languages should be compulsory, says report

OK. Or, perhaps, not OK.

The Higher Education Policy Institute’s latest report, A Languages Crisis? (HEPI Report 123) by Megan Bowler, highlights a huge drop in demand for learning languages and makes a set of recommendations for reversing the fall.

The paper shows only 32 per cent of 15-to-30 year olds from the UK can read and write in two or more languages (including their first language). This is less than half the level in the second-placed EU country (71 per cent in Hungary), and far behind France (79 per cent), Germany (91 per cent) and Denmark (99 per cent).

We’d probably run with the idea that 90% or so of all those Europeans with another, other than their native, language have English as the second. Which is, of course, the one language that the peeps here already have.

Doesn’t really seem much point in a Brit learning Hungarian, does there? Unless you go live there in which case you’ll not be included in the UK resident figures.

But there’s an easier way of dealing with this claim:

Megan Bowler is a third-year undergraduate studying Classics at Oriel College, Oxford. During vacations, she tutors in Latin, Ancient Greek and English and she recently completed an internship at HEPI.

Well, insisting that all learn a language would aid in gaining a decent working career for Megan but why the rest of us should pay much attention to such a naked ambition is uncertain.

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Jim
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Jim

OT but whats happened to timworstall.com? It appears to be down since yesterday.

Spike
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Spike

English is indeed not a language with severe geographical restrictions. There are always calls for U.S. students to learn foreign languages, though we can drive for three full days or fly to Britain or rail around Europe and not need it. (We have 30 million new reasons to learn Spanish, but one big reason for the 30 million to learn English, and high-school Spanish won’t enable useful communication with such border-jumpers as don’t want to assimilate.) The bigger problem is Foreign Language departments’ assertions that everyone needs to use our product.

John B
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John B

When we had Grammar Schools French and Latin, and in some Greek too, were compulsory.

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

Tutoring people in Latin and Ancient Greek is not exactly going to help them communicate with people in today’s world. However, there is a valid issue here — If the UK is going to become a world trade powerhouse post-Brexit, then there could be something to be said for encouraging young Brits to learn languages which could be important to future trade opportunities. STEM undergraduates with an eye to the future might want to take some classes in Chinese or Russian; learning French or German, not so much.

john77
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john77

When we had Grammar Schools covering the whole of the UK, youngsters could in practice communicate with foreigners using Latin which was widely understood throughout western and central Europe (and for a few years thereafter until the Roman Catholic Church abandoned the Latin Mass).

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Mandarin would be the most useful language for a British child to learn, but there’s two problems – where do all the qualified teachers come from, and then there’s this:
Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard
(a very amusing read from a prof of Chinese studies)

jgh
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jgh

In the 1980s I was told Japanese was the language was the language of the future.
And if a Brit wants to learn Chinese, Cantonese would be a better choice, well over 90% of Chinese Brits are Cantonese speakers. Mandarin is the language of the Imperialists. đŸ˜‰

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Couldn’t disagree more, not teaching a foreign language in schools is equivalent to not teaching mathematics. It was the Blair government that removed the requirement, after pressure from teaching unions who claimed it was too hard.

Andrew Carey
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Andrew Carey

Mathematics is a language. And it forms a major part of the communication of message in engineering and physics. But good luck to anyone trying to get a Classics undergraduate to get this. The inverse square law, or entropy heading in the wrong direction, and other hard sciences can only be expressed one way as far as I know. Empathy, respect for your parents, love can be expressed in many languages but once will do imv.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

But it obviously is not. Many British people never need to use a foreign language. Almost none never need to use maths. IAnd it’s barely worth it even for holidays- I learn Ftench at school but find I love Spain, or Thailand or Brazil…

The world speaks English. Why waste time teaching something people don’t need?

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

Most people never need to use maths? I stand amazed, that is about the most idiotic, ill-informed and blatantly stupid comment that I have ever read on the internet, which is really saying something. Additionally most of the world does not speak English. Learning another language, like much in education, improves the mind and has inherent value in and of itself. One suspects that your education was paltry in the extreme, even English seems beyond you,”I learn Ftench at school” suggests that you suffered at one of Britain’s failing comprehensive “schools”, for which you have my commiserations. Of course no… Read more »

jgh
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jgh

“The paper shows only 32 per cent of 15-to-30 year olds from the UK can read and write in two or more languages”

Dodgy statistic. I’m conversationally fluent in Japanese, but my reading and writing is atrocious.

On the theme, if you want teenage boys to learn furrin, tell them that cute furrin girls speak furrin. That did it for me.

Esteban
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Esteban

Seriously, ” not teaching a foreign language in schools is equivalent to not teaching mathematics.” – someone who doesn’t know mathematics will have a hard getting a decent job or managing their basic finances. The vast majority of people in England can get through life very nicely without a foreign language. I wonder if this comment was by Ms. Bowler herself. C’mon gissa job. As a corollary, in the U.S. there was a push for student to focus on STEM classes (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) because these lead to good jobs. I’ve noticed that in many cases it’s morphed… Read more »

jgh
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jgh

* Not enough people are doing hard stuff. We’ll set up a program to help and encourage people to do hard stuff.
* Wah wah! Hard stuff is hard, the easy stuff that I find easy is being neglected!
* I know, let’s add the easy stuff to the program encouraging people to do to the neglected hard stuff.

Spike
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Spike

My Latin I teacher felt the need to explain the point of learning a “dead language”: Exposes the mind to structure, demands the logic to grasp unusual new rules, exercises the memory, sheds light on the etymology of English.

There is little need for English-speakers to learn another language for actual communication, especially with machine translation (however dodgy). If stationed abroad, you can pick up a foreign language as you need to. The notion of learning one before you know you will need it (or know which) is silly, except for the above process of disciplining the mind.

CJ Nerd
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CJ Nerd

One of the saddest things I’ve ever read on a teacher’s blog:

Frank Chalk had a 15-year old pupil whose reading age in English was about 10.

He would have liked to spend time helping him get it up to 11.

Instead of which, he had to spend time teaching him French.

Well done, Mr Blair.