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Teaching myself another language

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by ttxalsm, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. Hi there,
    I am hoping you guys may be able to give me a little bit of advice.
    I am currently studying PGCE Modern Languages and have a joint honours degree in French and Russian. However, because Russian is not taught very widely in schools, I was advised to start another European language (either Spanish or German) because it would give me another language to teach and would look good on my CV. I decided to go with Spanish as it is a language I have always wanted to learn anyway, so seemed like a perfect opportunity! I bought myself a Teach Yourself Spanish Book and CD rom and have been working my way through it. I have also been observing Spanish lessons whilst on placement at the school I'm working at and have even taken a few taster Spanish classes, which I must say I am very proud of, considering I was a complete beginner myself a few weeks ago. I must say, however, that my Spanish is still very basic and I wouldn't consider myself to be GCSE standard yet, but I can get by and manage to recognise a lot of words because of having a degree in French, which is very similar. Now, here's the bit I would like a little advice with please....
    The university is suggesting I enter myself for the GCSE Spanish exam next year (Summer 2012) and this sounds a great idea, but I am a little bit worried that I won't be ready for the exam and will be under so much pressure with the final few weeks of my PGCE course and maybe need to concentrate on that. A lecturer at university has suggested I have a go anyway because even if I only manage to get a C / D, it will still look good on my CV because it would be a language which would be purely self-taught and would be an extra language for me and an extra qualification. Some people, however, have suggested that I wait until the end of my NQT year and by then I feel better prepared for the GCSE Spanish exam and will have already got my PGCE by then and will be settled into my NQT school. What do you guys think? Should I, as one lecturer suggested, just have a go and try my best? I guess it would look rather impressive in interviews to say that I understand that I only have one common language to offer (French) but I am currently preparing myself for the Spanish exam. Hmmmm.. ... decisions decisions!

    Have any of you taught yourself languages to help push your teaching careers?
    Do you have any advice / tips for me on this subject?
    Also, do you think it would be cheeky of me to speak to my placement school and ask if they'd be prepared to enter me for the GCSE exam along with the pupils? I guess it would be for professional development reasons so they may not have a problem with it, but is it cheeky to ask, considering normally I'd have to pay a lot of money to take the exam at a centre if I am not enrolled on a course?

    I guess if I think about it, GCSE standard in the grand scheme of things is not that hard to pass anyway. What I mean is, I am probably thinking I need to get my Spanish really good by the summer, when in fact I could take Foundation paper and get a grade C anyway without too much trouble I'd imagine.

    Please let me know what you think.


  2. Hi Angela, did you see this on a recent thread?
    So you're one step ahead of these children with your learning of Spanish. 2 months in, a bright spark (and yes there will be some - they aren't all "academically low" by any means) says "Miss, why do you use "soy" there but "estoy" there and they both mean "I am"?" Can you explain confidently and, importantly, correctly? Teachers charged with KS3 in a language should have at least A'level in that language, IMHO.
    Would you be hoping to teach with your GCSE in Spanish?
    I think its a great idea to learn other languages and really encourage you. However I think that one of the faults in MFL teaching in the UK, is the low level of knowledge that some teachers have in the second language they are teaching.
    Ideally you should be able to exploit your knowledge of Russian. What a great subject to offer to able students. I am sure that it would be very appealing on a UCAS form. It would be of much greater benefit to your students and you if you did that, rather than teaching a language/ culture of which you would have such a superficial knowledge.
  3. I totally agree with OTTER. I believe that even to teach a language to complete beginners you should master the language yourself to a near-native level. How can someone teach a language they can't even pronounce correctly?
  4. Herringthecat

    Herringthecat New commenter

    I am in a similar position although my degree is French and German and the teacher training begins next academic year.

    Simply by looking at the job ads that are out there, I felt I would be much more employable if I had Spanish as well, so am going for it, and hoping to do GCSE in the summer.

    I have nothing to back this up, but I wouldn't agree with your lecturer that it would be OK if you got a C / D. I am expecting to get at least an A and will hope that if the people who are helping me don't think I'm going to, they would tell me and I will try again next year. For me I think a C / D in a GCSE language, as a language teacher, would be a rather blotted copybook!

    For what it's worth, i did Italian GCSE in the sixth form and got an A from scratch in 10 months - I think we all did - with four 45 minute lessons a week.

    I have a friendly school (GTP sponsoring school) who is letting me do the exam and I just need to chat to the Spanish teacher about when to book in the controlled assessments.

    And finally, Spanishgalaxia - why do you think the original poster can't pronounce Spanish correctly? I reckon I'm making a pretty good stab at it after two months. I am listening to Spanish radio on the internet, watching Spanish videos and news, and making an effort. Of course, I am also a linguist who has a good ear. Current problem is probably mostly that I am making it too Italian sing-song, but while I think a good accent is important, it's not the be-all-and-end-all of good language teaching - well, not to my mind.

    Just my thoughts

  5. I am sorry but I just don't agree with that, a poor accent impedes communication. I think that it is just as important as the grammar and spelling.
  6. I don't think accent is the most important thing either, it is just an example. And honestly I don't believe a language can be mastered in a matter of months, even if one is a good linguist and already knows other latin languages, as it is the case here. Especially when you aren't even in the country where the language is spoken.
    Enough to go to Spain on holiday and have a chat with the locals, no doubt, but to teach it? I think that for that you need a very good grasp not only of grammar but vocabulary, culture, literature etc.
    I don't agree at all in views like "if you have a KS3 level of French you can teach French in KS2" that seem to be very popular in this forum.
    But hey, maybe it's just me
  7. Thank you very much.
    I really appreciate this information.

    Best regards,

  8. with regards to being able to teach the level below what you're at i think you totally can, I'm a A2 student and last year i taught a girl in my school spanish for a gcse from scratch and she got an A* with only my teaching input, a bit of effort on her part and a year of 2 half hour lessons a week
    i was fully able to explain any of the problems and questions she had with the language and i'm only ayear ahead of her

  9. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Wow Jess, hats off! Now you know how it feels when our students get the good results they deserve! Are you planning to become a teacher?
  10. steveglover

    steveglover New commenter

    I taught myself Spanish by dint of just being fanatical about getting all the CD courses I could lay my hands on from the library and playing them again and again, getting an A level Spanish book and basically immersing myself in Spanish everywhere possible. Probably a lot easier with having done French I suppose. Michel Thomas, Launchpad, Castillian Spanish, American Spanish, Spanish news, Spanish films. Coffee Break Spanish I also found very helpful. It was amazing how you could practically live in a Spanish speaking environment whilst living in Accrington. I also did a couple of terms of evening classes which made me look at some of the more diffficult aspects in more detail. I also read two or three novels and histories of South America and spanish civil war etc.
  11. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    Whilst this is to be commended, I do not doubt the hard work and effort on both parts, what does this really say about our GCSE level?

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