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Choice of languages and dual linguists

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by whyamidoingthis, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. Is it a correct assumption that if students can choose one language they really want to do they are less bothered about doing two compared to a situation where everyone does French which is less popular but lots more pupils might chose to do a second MFL as they prefer Spanish or German?
    Any thoughts?
  2. Bump.

    Any brief comments welcome - we are looking at restructuring MFL due to Ebacc (what else?!) and I am desperate for some informed opinions - I really don't want to make a wrong decision based that might backfire on us.
    We have had it easy so far with French being complusory and second langauge as an option but I am under pressure to offer a choice of languages on an equal footing. My fear is that dual linguists linguists would dwindle alarmingly.
  3. Oh dear - keep on repeating myself and including irrelevant words - sorry!
  4. We have found that complusory French plus choice of second MFL has worked well with good numbers in the second language. I think we would lose some French GCSE and gain in Spanish and German GCSE as a first language if we offered free choice but I think the number of second linguists would decrease. Actually I think a huge amount depends on the teacher - they will opt for a subject if they like the teacher even with the advent fo Ebacc.
  5. This may not be the answer you are looking for, but I think choice is very important and kids get much better results in a language they could choose themselves. French is objectively by far the most difficult of the 3 usually offered languages (e.g. letter:sound ratio, Linguista has a quite good analysis of this here: http://www.linguista.es/le_blog.html ). There is also the fact that more people buy houses in Spain etc. than in France, and the English seem to hate the French anyway, while with Spain there seems to be no emotional baggage. So... I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if it's only one language, results are better if kids can choose themselves (and if they are, ehm... gently steered towards easier languages :) ).
    As for dual linguists, there is scientific evidence that if you learn two languages at the same time, both as a foreign language, then their similarity is an obstacle (i.e. French-German is a better combination than French-Spanish). (Sorry, can't cite source off the top of my head, but I did quite some work on this at uni.) This does not contradict the fact that if you learn one foreign language, its similarity to your mother tongue helps.
  6. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    As a mfl trained teacher, though almost exclusively teaching all subject in middle schools throughout my career, I do think it is important to look at the 'mechanics' of one language initially, skills which are then easily transferrable to other language.
    Although my main language is German, I personally would opt for a phonetic Romance language for a first choice in European languages, as a phonetic language is easier to spell for poor spellers so Spanish or Italian.
    Certainly in my own case at school as a youngster, when studying French, Latin & German, I struggled to separate the grammar rules from one language to another & often became confused.
    However, with that background, when as an adult I came to learn Spanish, I found it much easier using my knowledge of Latin & French to pick up the language & now prefer it to French. I agree the 'cultural issues' are easier too than with German or French.
  7. I agree with this. I really think that many schools rush to introduce a second language for no good pedagogical reason.
  8. I believe there should be a much wider range of languages available for choice other than just languages very similar to English. This doesn't mean teaching languages that are considered "more difficult" because this isn't the true. Languages don't have to be difficult if taught in the correct way. They
    may seem difficult only because certain teachers present them in the
    wrong way. British children are lucky in that the usual languages they
    are taught are extremely similar to English. About 60% of modern English
    vocabulary comes from Latin roots. That gives English thousands of
    cognates with French.

    Furthermore, it is very easy to teach conversational proficiency by
    teaching the most high-frequency words first. If one learned the top
    1000 high-frequency words of a language, one would most likely be able
    to read a newspaper in that language. Once one has this base, it makes
    it easier to fill in the gaps, as one already has a foundation with
    which to express oneself in many situations.

    As for structure, French, German and Spanish are very similar to
    English. Of all the languages in the world, it would be unwise to say
    German is structurally very different from English if compared to the
    differences between it, and say, Turkish or Japanese. Turks and Japanese
    cope with learning English even though its structure is very different
    from their own language.

    Language learners get scared of conjugation because of verb tables. Well
    avoid them. You don't need to teach conjugations in tables. Teach a
    particular person-number form when it is needed to teach a communicative
    unit. The others can come at different appropriate points when needed.
    Why present them all at once? This just leads to confusion as a learner
    is trying to figure out which is the correct form from the table to use.
    If the forms are taught separately, confusion is minimised.

    These 3 commonly taught languages also have very similar phonetic
    similarities to English. Very few new sounds need to be learnt to speak
    them. If people think French is very different phonetically and thus
    difficult to learn, what about Georgian, with ejective consonants, or
    the khoisan languages, with clicks. These are difficult phonetically for
    English speakers; not French or German.

    One person: Michel Thomas can help us and pupils. This methodology needs
    to be wider used in schools, as it takes into consideration my points
    and makes languages easy for anyone. More schools need to look into the
    Michel Thomas for schools courses by Paul Howard, and stop blaming
    languages themselves for being hard, or pupils for being "no good" at
    languages. It is all in the presentation and the methodology.

    I have learnt 12 languages using these pointers. I'm not particularly a
    high-flyer, but I am managing to learn Navajo, Georgian and Ojibwe,
    self-taught. Now I think German grammar is just like a different way of
    speaking English because it is so similar when compared to say Navajo.

    I believe pupils should have the choice of at least one non-European language, such as Mandarin, Japanese, Turkish, etc. Mandarin is a useful business language; Japanese attracts those interested in manga, animé and Japanese culture in general; and Turkish is useful for holiday makers. Turkey is now a more popular holiday destination for UK tourists than Spain is.
    I did my degree in Arabic, but I am doing my PGCE in French, German and Russian, and yet I hope to have the opportunity to teach Mandarin and Japanese too, as I have enough knowledge of these to teach to at least KS3 standard.
    I believe languages very different from English would enthuse pupils more to learn languages; at least that is the impression I have had thus far, after offering such languages as taster sessions, whilst on work experience. As long as the correct teaching method is used, no language is no more difficult to learn than another.
  9. yasf

    yasf Established commenter

    Load of nonsense. It can be argued that Spanish maybe slightly easier overall, but German certainly isn't. And there's not a cigarette paper's difference between the 3 of them in the grand scheme of things anyway. Enough of this divisive nonsense please! [​IMG]
    As for the OP. I've been in schools with a free choice between French / German and French / Mandarin. In both cases french was more popular by about 2:1 (and in both cases that was with there being encouragement for the minority choice and some arm twisting by me and / or others away from French to keep their numbers up.
    Keep with what you have. Kids moan whatever they have to do. They're teenagers. It's in the job. spec.
  10. IN reply to the original question.
    Until a couple of years ago we had compulsory French, (which all had done since Y7) and the option of a second language (mainly Spanish, though we also had German available) which had been started in Y9
    There was usually a reasonable number of dual linguists, and the occasional triple linguist
    We then switched to a system whereby they all still do a language, but they can choose which one. The options form still allows dual linguists at GCSE - but numbers of dual linguists dropped dramatically.
    Over half elected to do Spanish - despite having started it later.
    Our current Y11s are the first year to be on the new scheme, so it will be interesting to see how the grade profile compares (though of course we are also facing the first year under the new spec.)

    I think that it is invidious to argue that out of French , German , Spanish any is "easier" - they all have difficult aspects.
    We have also noticed that our pupils tend to say Spanish is "much easier" when they start it in Y9. What they forget is that they are already familiar with things like gender, adjective agreements, different word-order, different pronunciation, concept of tense, verb endings so these things no longer "feel" strange or difficult as they did when they first met them in French.

  11. Thank you so much to everyone for all those detailed replies. Looks like we are going down the choice route. Swings and roundabouts I guess. Time will tell.

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