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Curriculum language choice in schools

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by hikochan, Jun 20, 2011.

  1. Amongst many others, these 2 points were made at an MFL open day at UCL this week; we are just not producing enough British graduates in MFL, graduates in Dutch, in particular, are much in demand.
     
  2. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Graham, if you get a chance, grab your camera, a bag of hazelnuts and head to Crans Montana, there's a really nice bit of wood there with lots of very tame red squirrels which will let you hand-feed them. Very lovely afternoon to be spent!
     
  3. Thanks for the recommendation, Noemie! Will definitely try to make the trip. We will be with our daughter, son-in-law and 5-year-old granddaughter in Susten. I am sure our granddaughter will love feeding the squirrels. I have a good camera and a camcorder. There are a few photos in my Flickr photostream that I took last year:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/39193151@N06/page2/
    Regards
    Graham
     
  4. Yes, I agree. Dutch is going to be more important for business as UK students are already going to Belgium and Holland to do university courses there as they are much cheaper than here in the UK now the prices have gone up. All those in this forum who think Dutch is less important than other languages, all I will say is: watch this space!
     
  5. marmot.morveux

    marmot.morveux New commenter

    If you're advocating learning Dutch then that seems a good argument for learning German.....the two languages being soooo close...
    MM
     
  6. londomolari

    londomolari New commenter

    OK, I'm with you here: don't work - don't pass. BUT what about scrotes (my term for 'pupils' - indulge me, if you will..) who don't care whether they pass or not, because they know that BRITISH society will look after them no matter what...and who literally resent the fact that they have to stay on in school until the age of 16 - how do you force them to learn anything? You don't. GCSE has been designed so anyone can pass by doing next to F-all. You can guess the answers from the questions; copy out bits of the text to create your own answers; learn the answers to 4 questions that your teacher will ask you in the oral...and pass, without even a fundamental knowledge of a language.
    I would like to see you force a class of low-level British head-bangers to learn basic 2+2 maths, let alone a foreign language. You may have a lot more leverage in Germany. Then again, it's not your forcing them, per se - it's the idea of what the accomplishment of the goal brings. In the UK, on the whole. scrotes have very little ambition. How do you motive them?
    Don't get me wrong here. I teach in Japan, and even here with much higher disciplinary standards and far more academic approaches, very few pupils actually learn to speak their coveted foreign language: Engrish.
     
  7. Well, you get this kind of kids everywhere, and you can't force them to learn, I agree. But you can force everyone else, and you don't do that, either.
    I know, I worked as a language assistant. You rephrase a question, and they have no idea what you're saying... Well, the good ones did, but the weak ones, no chance.

    Well, a friend who spent a high school year in Japan told me that English teaching consisted mostly of filling gaps. You don't learn a language by filling gaps..... I don't know if German pupils are more motivated in general.... They just don't want to be separated from their friends, and if they screw the year and have to repeat it, well, then their friends are gone....
     
  8. Hikochan wa troll dewa arimasen yo! Nani yutenno? Kimi no imi wakarahen yo!
     
  9. MAJOR ROFL - Hikochan has just used the word "troll" !!!![​IMG]
     
  10. What a prize plonker
     
  11. tortuman

    tortuman New commenter

    And how do you force them? Do you point a gun at their heads or you do what ultimately most countries do except the English, have an exam system where either you pass (meaning getting at least a C not a D or an F) every subject or you don't get your secondary school qualification?
    Of course, both options are totally undoable, the first one for obvious reasons, the second one, well, how many times have I heard the argument that making people repeat year is terrible... never mind that they do it all over the world and they seem to get better results...
     
  12. Yes, but it's not just that. The language level of graduates we do produce can be shockingly low - so low, in fact, that some (perhaps many) aren't fluent in their target language(s) and can't even pronounce foreign words correctly
    Even if they were fluent, it would still be difficult to hold a meaningful conversation with them about the 'target country' because their cultural knowledge is just as pitiful
    Allowing people to teach MFL on the basis that they 'know a little more than the pupils' (which sometimes they don't) is a highlightworthy example of minimalist thinking. How are pupils to learn from and be enthused by people who don't know enough?
    (To allay suspicions, I don't mean to ruffle any feathers. We all know the problem exists, at least I hope we do)
     
  13. BrightonEarly

    BrightonEarly Occasional commenter

    I found I could understand the key points in tour guide Dutch when in Holland - I'm a German speaker, not a Dutch speaker. So learning German would help you to get by understanding spoken Dutch anyway.
     
  14. londomolari

    londomolari New commenter

    Isn't this the same as saying that learning Latin will help you to learn Spanish, Italian and Portuguese? If you learn any one of these three to a high level I guarantee you'll understand the other two far better than you would had you studied Latin, and you'll also have a command of a language you can actually use, unlike Latin. If you need to learn Dutch, then learn Dutch! While what you say about German and Dutch is true, studying German will not give you a working command of Dutch.
     
  15. I agree. I studied German at university and one of the optional courses we could take was a reading course in Dutch. It was taught only to students of German, and the lecturer who taught it was aware of what we would recognise from our knowledge of German. He also taught us a few tricks, such as applying the Second Sound Shift backwards. At that time we all knew about the two sound shifts in the development of German, which we were taught in our history of the German language courses.
    My school Latin has helped me to understand Italian and Spanish, but I would rather have learnt Italian or Spanish properly in the first place.
    Regards
    Graham
     
  16. Couldn't agreee more
    No learning is ever completely wasted, but I often wondered what relevance "Cotta assaulted the ramparts with our men" could have in a modern context. Perhaps our curriculum was too 'academic'
     
  17. I have often quoted this text by Alan Coren:
    "A number of my contemporaries actually chose to go into the Foreign Office: if they read Arabic at university, they were swooped on by Whitehall and sent to Japan; if they read Japanese, they were sent on a special FO training course to learn German, and subsequently placed in Kampala; if their predilection and brilliance were commercial, they were given posts where political expertise was the sole requirement; if they were geographers, they were despatched to found hospitals or advise on fowl pest. In short, as soon as they had completed the long and arduous process of learning something, it was no longer required. They were in a state of permanent dynamic obsolescence. My entire life has been like that."
    Coren A. (1976) The sanity inspector, London: Hodder and Stoughton, Coronet Books Edition.
    Not far from the truth either. An old school friend of mine got a job in the FO in the 1960s. The FO was quite impressed by his knowledge of German. He only had a GCSE O-Level, but a high grade (A or B), so they sent him on a course to get his German up to a higher level and then posted him to the consulate in Stuttgart. He was only there for a few months and was then sent to Saigon, just in time for the beginning of Tet Offensive in 1968. I met him in the early 1970s and his Vietnamese was pretty good. Learn one language - no matter what language - and other languages tend to be easier to master.
    Regards
    Graham
     
  18. londomolari

    londomolari New commenter

    I agree entirely. That's why it's a shame that so many British (and probably American and other native-English-speaking) people will never overcome that first hudle, because that's what it is. It could be partly to do with confidence, or maybe it sets something off in the brain. This would be a good topic for research.
    I think it might also have something to do with the skills required for learning a language too. If you've learned how to memorise, then that skill must be transferable to other languages. If you've learned how to cope with a new form of reasoning required for a new language, then you are going to be more adaptable to yet another one. By the refusal to teach a language academically, through its grammar, I believe we are denying pupils the right to expand their minds in ways that go far beyond the mere linguistic.
    Communicative Language Teaching it is, then! Communicative my ****!
     
  19. No
    Seriously No
    It's because too many other people speak English, and we aren't forced by necessity to learn other languages. Motivation is the key, just as it is when you're a child - you have no option

    If everyone in the world spoke Dutch, do you think they'd be any good at languages?

     
  20. londomolari

    londomolari New commenter

    Honestly, I couldn't say.
     

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