It Is, Of Course, A Bit Much To Expect Logic From Rhiannon

Ms. Cosslett tells us that knowing more than one language is a jolly thing to do. Indeed it is. And yet we’ve that same old lack of logic in the encomium.

Being able to speak more than one language has opened up whole worlds of experience and understanding – so it is particularly saddening then to see reports that Brexit is putting British pupils off studying modern foreign languages at school. Some parents have even told teachers that it’s useless for their children to learn another language now that the UK is leaving the European Union.

Some parents will say and believe absolutely anything. There’s no explaining the Labour Party otherwise now, is there?

As a Welsh speaker I have encountered a fair amount of linguistic ignorance: people saying that Welsh is pointless because it is a minority language that is rarely spoken outside Wales. I always tell them that speaking Welsh is what enabled me to become fluent in French after moving there when I was 18. Learning one language makes it easier to acquire others (the jump to Italian was less intimidating once I knew another romance language); you gain an understanding of linguistic structures and rules, of tenses and quirks and etymology.

Much of that is true. Having had to fight through why the grammar, say, of one language is different from that of another means that working out how the third differs is indeed easier. Of course, all of this would be much easier if the English education system actually taught the grammar of the English language, something it doesn’t in fact do. I managed to get through an entire education at expensive schools without ever being exposed to an actual language, as opposed to literature, lesson. Back in that distant, misty, past it was assumed that grammar would be picked up through Latin lessons, possibly Greek, there thus being no need to teach it in English. Today of course the insistence that all forms of expression are equal means nothing so restrictive as an insistence upon there being rules of anything.

However, to that skating over the logic that Our Dear Rhiannon is so good at. Her Welsh did not come through doing a GCSE in it. Nor, as she tells us, did her French. And yet she uses her non-GCSE training in languages – she was immersed in both, not taught them at school – to argue for GCSE in languages.

Sigh. Probably mansplaining to even point this out.

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Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

I managed to get through an entire education at expensive schools without ever being exposed to an actual language, as opposed to literature, lesson.

Really? Didn’t your Prepper cover that topic? How did you get through CE?

timworstall
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timworstall

Don’t know whether I ever did CE. Can’t recall anything like it, certainly.

Dodgy Geezer
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Dodgy Geezer

How, then, did you get into your Public School without doing the Common Entrance exam? I believe that special cases – boys from the Empire, etc – might be allowed in under Headmaster’s discretion, but the usual path would involve taking CE. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Entrance_Examination

Jonathan Harston
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Jonathan Harston

“Of course, all of this would be much easier if the English education
system actually taught the grammar of the English language, something it
doesn’t in fact do.”

Odd, I was taught English grammar in my bog standard Labour council state primary school in the 1970s.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

And yet even the densest of children manage to pick up grammar years before they go near a school. And they pick it up from those making the rules of grammar – the people speaking the language.

I understand the same happens even with foreigners and their languages.

Anything else is made-up b*llocks.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

Really? How many educated people do you know who write ‘of’ for ‘have’ – a mistake impossible for anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of grammar.

Phoenix44
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Phoenix44

Also does anybody believe the claim about Brexit it? That parents of children who might otherwise become reasonably proficient in a European language are now saying don’t bother? More likely parents have moved on to Chinese.

Quentin Vole
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Quentin Vole

When I took O-levels (1967) there were two options: English Literature (analysing Shakespeare, etc.); and English Language (grammar, parsing sentences, clauses etc.). When did that cease to be a thing?

The most useful foreign language would (of course) be Mandarin, but where would our schools get the necessary 10,000 qualified teachers from?