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Have pupils lost their interest in studying languages because of the Brexit effect?

Discussion in 'Education news' started by TES_Rosaline, Jun 27, 2018.

  1. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    ‘The Brexit vote has had a negative impact on parents' attitudes and pupils' motivation to learning modern languages, according to a new survey of teachers.

    More than a third of state secondary schools have reported that the decision to leave the European Union has made parents and pupils question the importance of learning a language.

    The findings comes from the British Council’s Language Trends Survey 2018, which questioned heads and language teachers in 692 primaries and 785 secondary schools in England between January and March.’

    Are pupils less interested in learning a language since the Brexit vote? Have you seen a decrease in the number of pupils choosing languages as their part of their subject choices at your school? Do you think there are other factors at play here or do you think that Brexit has led to negative perceptions about studying languages and the value of learning them?

  2. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    I my experience the vast majority of kids were never interested in languages. IIRC a few years back the Government stoped MFL from being compulsory at GCSE. In my school take up dropped to 16% of the cohort.
  3. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Why do you think that is @blazer? Do you think introducing languages to children at a younger age would help the situation or do you think the fact that we speak English is the main reason students are not interested?
  4. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    Just my nearly 30 years teaching. The kids hate the lessons ans steadfastly refuse to learn the vocabulary. This was made even more evident when the school acquired French speaking kids with almost no English. I could explain my subject to them reasonably well in French. I could chat with the new students and the British kids could not follow a word. Even by year 10 most could get no further that "Je m'appelle whatever". Even when I did a day's supply in a Grammar school in their MFL dept I knew more French and German than any of the kids in their GCSE classes. My German education being 3 terms at night school 30 years ago.
    agathamorse and HelenREMfan like this.
  5. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you for responding @blazer.

    That's such a shame, and demotivating too. I guess the motivation is just not there.
  6. giotto

    giotto New commenter

    IMO it's nothing to do with Brexit but more to do with the fact that, when compared to other subjects, learning languages is too hard. You can be bone idle for several years but then wise up enough to decide that perhaps doing your school work might be a good idea. So, for subjects like Geography, History etc. even if you don't have a sound knowledge of your first 2 years' work you can start working hard and make progress. However, learning languages is a bit like mathematics- it's a building process. You could do well at GCSE Biology even if you didn't learn your KS3 Biology. But you really need the basics of KS3 French/Spanish in order to make progress.
    Also, from my experience, most children nowadays aren't disciplined enough to do the hard slog of regular vocabulary learning.........and you can't make progress without it.
    Added to all of that is the suspicion that it's harder to get a top grade at A level French than in most other subjects!
    And I haven't yet mentioned the fact that "everyone speaks English, anyway"!
  7. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    C'est vrai!
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. RuthTom

    RuthTom Occasional commenter

    I don’t know. I am nudging my teen to do German for GCSE -Welsh is compulsory anyway. She seems quite keen at the moment. I want her to have another language, partly because it gives her more options for work and travel.
    I have never forgotten sitting on a train with some lovely 4 year olds in Germany and listening to them playing ‘I Spy’ in English and French. Why don’t we do that here?
    agathamorse and Idiomas11 like this.
  9. install

    install Star commenter

    Anyone here questioned? :cool:
  10. koopatroopa

    koopatroopa Senior commenter

    No. They were never terribly interested.
  11. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    trouble with GCSEs is that they make some subjects over academic and take away much of the fun and interest. affects languages badly and such things as PE too.
    agathamorse and Idiomas11 like this.
  12. blazer

    blazer Star commenter

    I recall on Holiday in Spain playing Bpule with a Spaniard, German and a Frenchman and I was the only one who could keep score!
    Idiomas11 and RuthTom like this.
  13. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    living in a City with a Continental Port, it is easy to point out the advantages, but it is a more difficult option for many pupils. With so much emphasis on good grades rather than subjects.....
    agathamorse likes this.
  14. Lalex123

    Lalex123 Occasional commenter

    Why are languages deemed more important than other subjects? I don’t understand the hierarchy system of subjects when colleges accept your application based on your grades, not necessarily the subjects.

    If I wanted to get a job where I needed a language, it would be better to live there and learn it immersively than sit in a classroom repeating je m’appelle lalex123, ca va? Et toi?
    katykook likes this.
  15. yasf

    yasf Occasional commenter

    They're not. Maths, English and Science tend to come top of the tree.
    Couldn't you say that about any subject you learn at school? Even maths and English once you've learned the basics?
  16. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    supply and demand, fewer people get good mfl grades, so they are worth more than other option subjects perhaps?
  17. Mr_Frosty

    Mr_Frosty Occasional commenter

    I guess the problem here, and with trying to get students to study languages in school, is that most parents don't speak another language. Even if they weren't very academic in school many parents can help young children with basic reading and maths but i doubt many parents could help with a foreign language.

    It's a shame because since I've started working internationally you can see how achievable and useful being bilingual or multilingual is and there's no reason why British students couldn't manage it given the right support.
    agathamorse likes this.
  18. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    I suspect Brexit is just a handy excuse for the children or their parents to make - or even a jibe at the teacher.
    I doubt anyone who would have been interested in languages previously will have gone off the idea just because of brexit.
  19. Lalex123

    Lalex123 Occasional commenter

    Same with music or other difficult subjects but that is at the bottom of the pile.

    Languages is in the EBACC, apparently it’s more important than arts, computing, PE and other practical subjects.

    Yes, that is why I don’t understand this EBACC idea that Michael Gove forced upon us. Why are humntites and languages more important than the ones I listed above?
  20. colpee

    colpee Star commenter

    Interesting that there is no mention of the same British Council study that reported last year that there had been a decline in language learning applications going back to 2012 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/...ritish-council-prompts-concerns-a7877491.html

    So although this new study is reporting that people are perhaps using Brexit as a reason, actually the downward trend in language choice has been a fact for much longer than Brexit.

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