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Teach Spanish - not French or German

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Linguista, Feb 3, 2011.

  1. New blog post (the 2nd one on the issue): http://www.linguista.es/le_blog.html
    This post is about the cultural baggage of the languages offered in British schools. The previous one was a linguistic analysis of French versus Spanish to determine which one was more difficult, not subjectively but according to objective linguistic criteria.
    On the main page (<u>www.linguista.es/)</u> there is a link to the list of accepted MFL qualifications for the EBacc and also the ALL statement re. community languages and the EBacc.
  2. I think that the relationship between GB and at least France is rather more complicated than you suggest. I have long held the view that it is a class thing and maybe even a little to do with Geography.
    For centuries the only contact between the GB working class and France was in times of war. I suspect that seeing another country in wartime you do not see it at its best. I imagine few GB infantrymen emerged from the WW1 trenches with much desire to return to France. Imagine the effect of their tales on their communities when they got home. In fact it is not difficult as I think that the results can still be heard in classrooms today.
    Contrast that of the middle and upper classes who had altogether different and positive experiences of France.
    I grew up in Surrey where it was very common to have a holiday in France or just to go there shopping. I remember when I was a little girl my father showing me France from Dover. It was that close. It was obviously a very middle class environment and certainly France and the French were seen as 'a good thing'.
    Now if you contrast that to a working class community, they have been tempted by the cheap sea, sun and booze of holidays some of which are in Spain. If you live on Tyneside flying to France or Spain or Turkey does not make much difference logistics wise. France tends to be more expensive and probably not offering what you want holidaywise. So you don't go to France and the long cherished views of the French don't get challenged because you don't go there.
    I actually think that there is plenty of cultural baggage between the British and the Spanish. The British have a poor image in Spain and it does not take much imagination to see why. We have not exactly distinguished ourselves whilst in Spain from the puking ladettes to the colonies of expats who have no intention of integrating into Spanish life. Not to mention Gibraltar and the fishing problems.
    I actually agree with you that Spanish should be much more widely taught for all the good pedagogical reasons you have outlined. I just think that the cultural baggage aspect is a complex one. And of course I have not even considered the German aspect, which is also complicated by class.

  3. Hi Otter. Can I use your post on my blog-site? Or would you consider replying there please? Thank you!
    Linguista (www.linguista.es)
  4. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Just on a point of fact: there are many thousands of Britons who have second homes or who live and work in France. Accurate figures may be hard to find, but I have seen an estimate of 250,000. A similar number of French people may be living or working in Britain.
    There is a class issue here. Middle class Britons still tend to favour French for its cultural heritage. France is a major destination for middle class travellers. Geographical proximity also has to be taken into account as France is often a through route to other places. Within the EU French is more in demand than Spanish in the business community. When you add the fact that French is also a major language in Switzerland and Belgium, you can quickly make a persuasive case for it.
    I would agree that French poses more phonological problems.Grammatically I doubt that there is much to choose.
  5. Hi
    Yes that's fine if you want to use it.
  6. yasf

    yasf Occasional commenter

    I disagree. Spanish is harder. After all there are 2 verbs to choose between for 'to be', and only 1 in French. Terribly confusing [​IMG]
    More seriously - I was surprised how biased and inaccurate the blog was. In the grand scheme of things they are very similar languages of roughly similar difficulty levels.
  7. I am a bit shocked to read "Teach Spanish, not French or German".
    How are we ever going to address "cultural baggage" if we do not teach it anymore?
    Schools should offer a variety of languages in early years and have students choose.
    The benefits of learning a highly grammatical language such as German or to a lesser extent French should not be underestimated and German being a very close lexical neighbour English also holds so many advantages..
    Looking forward to this interesting discussion you started
  8. I quite agree, ovoigt! The best way to confront the kind of prejudicial views you claim to be prevalent (not that common any more, in my experience - most of us have managed to move on from the Fawlty Towers era of cultural relations!) is to LEARN about the peoples concerned and discover for ourselves that people everywhere are just...people. Like us!
  9. westnab

    westnab New commenter

    This is an unbelievably sad attack which totally undermines the hard work colleagues are putting in day in, day out to fight the corner for LANGUAGES in general. I am absolutely speechless that this negativity has come from a languages teacher. Presumably it is because you speak neither French, nor German, that you are so aggressive. I don't see why that should be. I do not speak all the languages taught in my department, but I do not feel threatened by them. There are many reasons to learn any language and as others say, a great deal of what you say is factually inaccurate and fuels old prejudices. As others have said, fighting these old prejudices is exactly why we should teach French and German.
    French and German are far more in demand from British business than Spanish is and I would argue French and German are more likely to be of use on holiday, not only in France or Germany, because they are also widely taught and used across Europe. You can get by just fine in Ibiza with no Spanish whatsoever. German is also really good for SEN students, as the basics are much more manageable. Spanish, being pro-drop, causes lots of problems in my low-ability classes. Without knowing all the verb endings, it's very difficult even to work out who/what the subject is.
    I could go on, but can't really be bothered. I seriously hope you aren't spreading your negativity to the children in your care. Language teachers should stick together and fight for children's rights to learn any MFL, not put people off like you are trying to do.
  10. Wow that is so depressing. A language I have loved for so many years is pro-drop. Presumably it means it drops its subject pronouns, you make it sound like some kind of blight.
  11. spsmith45

    spsmith45 New commenter

    Trouble with that approach is that there isn't time to do it well.
  12. Why is there not enough time?
    My school teaches an MFL from Yr7 , all primary schools teach a Language... surely that is enough time?
  13. westnab

    westnab New commenter

    Sorry if I offended - this is the term I was taught in my linguistics modules at university for languages where the subject pronouns are not required, as you say.
    The last thing I wanted to do was depress you, as the OP did me. I think Spanish is a fantastic language, I just wanted the OP to accept that all languages have their challenges - that's what makes them great!
    I agree with Geekie!
  14. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    No, because there is every possibility that they will end up knowing lots of little bits of language, but will not have made real, tangible, meaningful progress in any of them , which isn't very motivating and which won't solve the problems which we face as a nation with regards to language learning, which are largely to do with motivation and learner confidence.
  15. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    No they don't.
    The last figures we had say that 92% of primary schools teach a language, but only about 70% of those do so across KS2. Since the Govt did away with making primary languages statutory, that percentage is bound to have gone down. All is not rosy here in Primary Languages Land. I was at a meeting yesterday with my regional colleagues, and we are all fighting to find a way to keep our jobs.
  16. Geekie

    Geekie Occasional commenter

    And another thing. The language you find easiest is a very personal thing. I've had many pupils who have done French and Spanish for the same number of hours for the same number of years and have definitely preferred one over the other. They just "get" one better than the other. They get a feel for a certain language.
  17. [​IMG]
  18. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    One of the reasons for the sad state of language learning in GB is unfortunately because MFL teachers are often at war with one another. It is not really that unusual to find MFL depts with an HOD who favours one language over others.
    Why oh why should 'because it is easier' be a reason to teach anything?
  19. well said :)

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