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Looking for a (or some) foreign language teacher in the UK to answer some questions.

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by dghavinga, Sep 19, 2018.

  1. dghavinga

    dghavinga New commenter

    I’m an English teacher in the Netherlands and I’m thinking about moving to the UK. Over there, I would also like to be an foreign language teacher (I also speak German and French and I’m learning Spanish) and now I’m wondering what that’s all about. All my pupils fully understand the importance of English, as you can’t really do without in the Netherlands, so I have a couple of questions about objectives over there.

    1. Why is a second language taught
    2. Do students think it’s important, why and why not.
    3. What are your resources. Book? Do you also design your own work sheets?
    4. How important is the target language in your classroom, do you speak it a lot?
    5. Is there a main focus in your lessons? Speaking, writing, reading, listening, grammar, vocabulary.
    6. Do you use the Common European Framework of Reference or a similar framework and to what extent.
    7. How important is testing. Formative, summative?
    8. Workload, both for you and pupils.
    9. Anything you can add!
    That should do for now, thanks so much if anyone answers!

  2. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    Hi. I'll try to answer honestly, without wanting to deter you from being an MFL teacher in a UK school...
    1) I won't insult your intelligence by answering all of the reasons why language learning is beneficial. Instead I'll say, it is part of the compulsory National Curriculum (which most state schools follow, although with the introduction of Academy schools there is increasing autonomy, but most still stick to it.)
    2) Many students and parents don't see it as important. And of those that do, a large proportion only want to learn Spanish as that is more popular than France/Germany as a tourist destination from the UK.
    3) Most schools use a textbook, but there are loads of them available and the choice is down to the school (i.e. the Head of Department, not individual teachers). The textbooks have accompanying audio, and some have resources for interactive whiteboards too. Most MFL teachers supplement the school's resources with their own worksheets and PowerPoint presentation.
    4) TL use varies from school to school and from teacher to teacher.
    5) Lessons have a balance of all the components you mentioned.
    6) I have never yet come across any school using the CEF. They used to all use the National Curriculum Attainment Targets (similar to the CEF), but the attainment targets were scrapped when the New National Curriculum was brought in a few years ago. Schools are now free to devise their own progress scales for each subject (except English and Maths), but most schools didn't really know how to tackle this change, and the systems used vary a great deal from one school to the next.
    7) Both. From age 13/14 (depending on the school), pupils work towards national qualifications: GCSE, then A Level.
    8) Teachers in the UK generally have a heavy workload.
    9) There is an national qualification for teachers in the UK (called QTS - Qualified Teacher Status). Without it you may find it hard to find a post in a state school, and would be paid as an unqualified teacher (on a lower salary). If you have a European teaching qualification, it is possible to have your qualification officially recognised and therefore be granted QTS (I don't know how!). I believe it is easier to find unqualified teacher posts in independent schools (where you might be paid higher than in a state school anyway, but not necessarily).
    Hope this is useful information!
    pepper5 and dghavinga like this.
  3. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    I am an mfl teacher and have a Dutch background. My advice would be to stay in the Netherlands. You will be horrified at the lamentably low standard here and at the sheer drudgery in getting a response from the vast majority of your pupils. It's mostly laziness and a certain degree of xenophobia.Of course there are lovely kids here and some that want to learn but it is simply not part of our culture here. And then there is Brexit! Best wait until it is all over (if it ever is.)
  4. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    Ha ha! Interesting to hear from a Dutch perspective! I'm British, and have moved on from MFL teaching (at least, that is to say, for the past few years), so didn't want to say:
    But @meggyd has hit the nail on the head about how I imagine a Dutch native would find British students' attitudes to MFL. A stark contrast to the attitude of parents and students in the Netherlands, I think.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure I would agree with the explanation:
    It's partly due to repeated governments' emphasis on the core subjects at the expense of foundation subjects, an attitude which is passed onto parents. It's partly a lack of exposure to other European cultures. It partly depends on the background of the students. It's partly the (perceived) difficulty of foreign language learning compared to other subjects (and the amount of effort required to achieve comparable exam grades). There are lots of reasons for the relatively low status of MFL, although the attitude that 'everybody else speaks English anyway' is part of the problem.

    And it's true:
    mjandradebayona and dghavinga like this.
  5. dghavinga

    dghavinga New commenter

    Thanks everyone for the replies! The first question was more aimed at why a specific language is taught. I do thankfully understand the importance of learning a language in general. English here is taught with a global perspective in mind. German will often (in higher years) have more vocab aimed towards economics an Mandarin is sometimes offered also with trading in mind. So... why would a school choose German/French/Spanish and not Mandarin or Korean.

    I have a European teaching qualification and have already looked into the possibilities of getting that recognised over there.

    I'm in a long distance relationship with someone from Bath at the moment, he wouldn't mind moving to the Netherlands and after your responses I think thats what we'll do. You guys got me scared of teaching there :D All jokes aside, thanks for the answers, comes in handy in preparing for whatever decision we make.
  6. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    Ah, okay, I now understand your question about languages taught... :)

    So, in answer to that question (and further to my answer to question 2):
    French is the most frequent language offered, mainly for historical reasons, and is usually the first MFL taught, with second languages often being offered only to more able learners (which is kind of counter-intuitive, given that French is generally considered more difficult for English speakers to learn than either German or Spanish!); German became very common for a while, especially in the earlier days of the EEC/EU, when it was anticipated to be useful from a business/finance perspective, but has declined dramatically in the past 10-15 years, with many schools opting to offer Spanish instead; Spanish has become popular, partly due to being considered a more global language than French/German, partly due to Spanish-speaking countries'/islands' popularity as a tourist destination from the UK; Mandarin began to offered, as you say with commerce in mind, but this is often only as an option for 'gifted and talented' learners (due to the perceived difficulty of the language), or as an extra-curricular option, and I believe it may have declined recently, partly due to government pressures on schools in terms of attainment targets.
    Schools offering any other languages (Japanese, Italian, Russian) as part of the core curriculum are few and far between.
  7. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    I don't teach MFL but I can say that you would in general find the behaviour in some schools very challenging. Being able to teach your subject is secondary to being able to manage the classroom and you may find that very difficult if not impossible in some schools. I would stay put unless you could find a school where the behaviour is good.

    If you ever decide to work in the UK, don't rush into anything but always check out the school first very, very carefully.

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