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Failing to use TL in the classroom = poor student performance

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by OTTER, Jan 11, 2011.


  1. According to this OFSTED report out today
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/8250705/Ofsted-teachers-fail-to-use-foreign-languages-in-lessons.html
    I agree completely that 'teaching to the exam' is destroying language learning. However I am a bit confused over use of the TL in the classroom. KS2 is praised for its use of class teachers to teach MFL. I can't help but worry over the standard of language/ pronunciation that is presented to primary learners.
    I also note that no reference is made to the failure to teach grammar, which I think is a major cause of students rote learning material they don't understand. If they had the skills to produce the language themselves they would a. understand what they had written and b. would not have to learn it by rote anyway.
    Part of me also remembers the additional complications with low ability sets caused by too much TL!

     
  2. zrcadlo

    zrcadlo New commenter

    Hi, thanks for posting that link, interesting reading!
    I agree that in some cases 'boring lessons' certainly are putting students off learning MFL. However, I disagree that it's the lack of TL, or the fact that MFL lessons often contain lots of English, which does this. Completely understand what you say above about lower ability sets suffering 'complications' due to too much TL. At times the only thing that saves lessons with such classes is the fact that they are conducted in first language.
    I've been teaching for 6 years so still quite new, but I would already definitely disagree with anyone who says 'the more TL the better regardless of the situation'.

     
  3. I have skim read the full version of the report. Something that struck me was, how few were the mentions of exchange trips. Now in our risk averse world these have been abandoned by most schools. However I can honestly say that I had the majority of my practice in speaking French and Spanish by taking part in exchanges and study visits where I stayed with families. Those experiences also imbued in me a love and passionate interest in France and Spain that has never left me. I think that you need that to counter those days when you encounter difficulties in your studies.
    So not only are very few state school students getting this opportunity, but many do not have an MFL working in their school.
    So it is little wonder that students have poor listening and speaking skills. You need prolonged exposure to a language to 'get your ear in' if you only ever hear recorded snippets, you will never develop this.
     
  4. henriette

    henriette New commenter

  5. MFL = FLA oooops!
     
  6. I think it is true. How on earth will the students learn to understand the foreign language when it is spoken if the teacher doesn't speak it to them? If you speak TL to them from the beginning, they will notice their progress: they'll see that although in the beginning, they had no idea what you were saying, they now understand although perhaps they can't answer in the TL. But if they understand it, they will want to be able to speak it. But if you speak English to them, they won't see any need to learn how to understand or speak TL.
     
  7. Really?? I had no idea! Wow, thanks for that! (Excuse sarcasm!). The point I was trying to make is that in some schools the reality is that this can take way too much time to implement, and by then students become switched off and anti-languages. In an ideal world we wouldn't be worrying about competetition at KS4 options time or indeed students' lack of will to take on challenging subjects but I'm afraid that's the situation we're in (well, a lot of us any way).
    If you can convince my school that it hasd the budget to train us up in this wonderful 'TLI methodology' of which you speak (6 full time staff members are going to have to be made redundant this year) then I'd be delighted. Otherwise, I'm afraid I find your post rather patronising and idealistic.
     
  8. londomolari

    londomolari New commenter

    TLI? Sounds like a crock of wishful-thinking ESL bull$hit used to convince monolingual anglophones that they can be effective teachers, and that their hapless students are getting something wonderful and special for their hard-earned. Trouble is, to maintain the illusion, all this nonsense has to be taken up by (i.e. forced upon) MFL teachers too - can't have them spilling the beans while Krashen, Chomsky and Asher et alia are trying so hard to legitimise their ideas.
    One of the greatest teaching tools you have as a language teacher is the ability to explain the intricacies of a foreign language to students in their native tongue. For heavens sake, don't let them take that away from you! Declare it your right to use it, for not doing so is causing damage to your pupils.
    If pressed, I'd go with TWA methodology myself: all the same 'benefits' but with far less of the wasted effort. I am sure there are ways to adapt it to an all-TL environment.
     
  9. By all means use the TL as much as you can in the classroom, but don't hesitate to explain things in English as soon as you see the kids' eyes glazing over. The failure to teach grammar probably does more damage than failing to use the TL.
    EFL teachers often have to use the TL all the time, especially when teaching a group of students who speak a language of which they have no knowledge or teaching students with a mixture of language backgrounds. But we have the luxury of teaching kids who have English as a common MT or language of habitual use - so take advantage of it!
    I had to learn Hungarian many years ago when I was working on a project in Hungary. My tutor explained a lot of things in English that would have taken me a very long time to work out for myself if she had only used the TL: the three cases; the complex system of prefixes, suffixes and infixes; the lack of gender (one word = both "he" and "she"), the six different ways of saying "you" (or seven if you include the impersonal "you"); the lack of prepositions and possessive adjectives, etc. Once the rules had been explained to me I understood what was going on and then it was just a matter of practice, practice, practice.
    Try this: Stick a group of OFSTED inspectors in front of a teacher of Hungarian or Finnish speaking 100% in the target language and ask them how it feels.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     
  10. Aaaahhhh, what a wonderful thought! [​IMG]
     
  11. I guess you, and many of the other posters, have never spent time teaching in schools elsewhere in Europe or further abroad, where you would get short shrift for not using the target language, other than when it was unavoidable (and not merely because of pupils' refusal to cooperate - not an attitude I met elsewhere). I spent my professional lifetime teaching EFL (as well as Romance langs), and did so in English. Outside of Europe, I never knew enough of the native language to teach in it, though I studied enough grammar and phonology to see where major difficulties might lie. How come it's only UK MFL teachers who go on about the difficulty of teaching in the target language?
    And, what's this "It's so difficult for the pupils?" I taught in a Bemba-speaking area of Central Africa, but there were many pupils speaking other languages (Think Romance.) A Nyanja child would arrive in school at 5 with little or no Bemba, which he would have to know well enough in two years to start learning English, in which he would have all his secondary schooling. Would it have made sense for me to teach him French via English? Of course, some English was necessary but, eg, I could explain the "gender" difference better via the Bantu word-class system than I could by the animate-only English system.

    As for OTTER, his worries over "the standard of language/pronunciation that is presented to primary learners", seem to be well-founded. As other threads make clear, primary Heads are quite content to have TAs doing specialist teaching for which they have no recognised qualification, and I know this goes for MFL, the worst example I know of being a TA from Jersey entrusted with French on the basis that she spoke Jerriais. Anyway, the Heads who responded to my queries about their preparations for the Primary MFL requirement with various forms of "wait and see" have been proved right, so "UK monolingualism rules, OK".
     
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