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continuing to develop your language while teaching

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by praiasefestas, Aug 2, 2012.

  1. praiasefestas

    praiasefestas New commenter

    I have just finished (in June) my assistantship as part of my year abroad for my degree course. My degree is combined Spanish and development studies. I started university as a (very!) mature student who had only ever studied CSE French and had never studied Spanish...
    I have come to love Spanish and Spain and have some knowledge of Latin America through the development studies half of my course and love the cultural aspect of learning a language. I wanted to do the assistantship this year to gain experience of teaching and to see if it was for me. I loved it! However, while I had a fantastic experience and my Spanish has improved, I feel very insecure about it and I decided to stay on in Spain for the summer and I'm currently doing a Spanish course for 6 weeks before heading back for my final year.
    I'm going to apply for both the PGCE and (now) the SDP to hopefully gain a place to start 2013 and during my final year will be studying a beginners French course so I can (eventually) offer 2 languages as this is what seems to be required.
    My question is about my subject knowledge and the level required to teach secondary Spanish and the opportunity to continue to learn while you are training and (hopefully) working in a school. I would love the opportunity to teach languages but worry about my late start and level. Although I passed my second year and have progressed during the year abroad, I wonder if it's going to be enough. What are the CPD opportunities for language teachers? Are there many opportunities to consolidate and progress your language while you are training, and then teaching, and do you develop your language skills with help from colleagues? Do many of you spend your holidays on courses and if so, have they helped with your teaching? I do love learning and would be very happy to go on more courses and continue to improve but should I know nearly everything before training to teach?
  2. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    I don't quite understand. If you are doing Spanish at degree level, surely you should have a firm grasp of the language.
    If you are only about to start learning French, then you won't really have sufficient subject knowledge to teach it.
    If you want to teach MFL, you should be fluent in the languages you want to teach and have a degree in it, unless you are a native speaker.
    You shouldn't need on the job training to improve your language skills so that you can teach; you should be a good linguist to start with!
    I observed a candidate teaching a French lesson quite recently. I was appalled at her anglicised accent. Children deserve to be taught by people who are specialists in their field.
  3. There are also Subject Knowledge Enhancement courses to help you get your second language up to scratch. These are for people who have been given a conditional offer for a PGCE course, so you have to be referred by the university where you'll be doing the PGCE.
    I did my degree in French, so am pretty fluent. I certainly got the impression at my PGCE interview that they were very impressed with my spoken French and my written work.
    However, I was offered a PGCE place for French with Spanish (having applied for just French) because the employment prospects are better. They weren't at all interested in my German AS Level because fewer schools are offering German nowadays, but they offered me the opportunity to go on an SKE course to brush up my Spanish (I got an A in GCSE Spanish 7 years ago, but didn't continue any further).
    I've been working hard on my Spanish independently over the past few months, and would say I've now got back to where I was. I've also covered a lot of grammar that I didn't have to do at GCSE, but it's now a case of getting comfortable using it. I should definitely be able to teach KS3 Spanish, but it would be great if I could get up to A-Level standard in order to teach KS4. Still, even being able to offer a second language at KS3 is going to be an advantage when applying for jobs.
    I'm going on my 2 week SKE course soon, which hopefully will get it up to a higher standard or at least give me the opportunity to practise speaking more. I've also found out about a group that meets up regularly in a city near me for Spanish speaking practice, so I may give that a go at some point. Hopefully at the end of my PGCE I'll be able to afford a trip to Spain so I can practise a bit more.
  4. praiasefestas

    praiasefestas New commenter

    Thanks for your reply and to the others.
    I agree that you should be a good linguist to teach and that of course, is my aim, hence my questions about continuing to improve once you are a teacher. Surely your languages have improved with experience, with working with more knowledgable colleagues and FLA's/native speakers and through any opportunities to go on courses or trips?
    I came to languages late and it's been more challenging than I expected but although I hope to leave university with a good degree, I certainly don't want to think at the end that, 'I know it all now I have a degree'. Surely part of your continuing development as a teacher should be to update and improve your subject knowledge, whatever subject you teach?
    As I want to be a successful teacher, I wanted to know about the opportunities to develop your subject knowledge. I also do intend to keep in contact with all the friends I've made this year who have already been an enormous help with my Spanish and with general teaching experience.
    I don't want to 'wing it' and I am aware the first couple of years are going to be hard work, should I be offered a place. I was advised to start learning French during my final year by the PGCE course leader to improve my job prospects.
    Thanks for the comments, all advice is much appreciated.
  5. chriszwinter1

    chriszwinter1 New commenter

    This describes a situation which would be hilarious if it weren't so insulting. Apart from the fact that those employing teachers in this way think it is quick-fix solution because Spanish is apparently easier, it's like assuming geography teachers can teach history because of that notion of humanities which is something else entirely or that chemistry teachers can teach biology.
  6. Dunteachin

    Dunteachin Star commenter

    Yes, the more you teach, the more you learn. In fact, with languages, you are constantly picking up new words and phrases, by various means.
    However, my original point was that you should be a damn good linguist to start with, before you even enter the classroom. Starting to learn French during the final year of your PGCE course does not bode well!
  7. That's fantastic - thanks for sharing it.
    If it's still available in a couple of years' time, I'll see if I can do that. I'm doing a 2 week Spanish Subject Knowledge Enhancement starting next week, but although they say breaks and lunchtime will be in the target language, it's hard to immerse yourself in it properly when you're in England, surrounded by other English people.
    I'm impressed the British Council still fund something like this - I remember a year or two ago they nearly stopped/drastically cut back the Assistantship programme (which I did on my year abroad in France) because their funding had been cut.
  8. praiasefestas

    praiasefestas New commenter

    Yes, thanks. Good to hear that some teachers are still getting the opportunity to go on courses like this.

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