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The challenge facing MFL in the UK

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by mlapworth, Nov 4, 2010.

  1. curlyk

    curlyk New commenter

    I was not advocating , in a previous posting ,that we sit on our hands and wait for someone,somewhere to sort things out. We have discussed,till we are blue in the face , in many and varied postings over the last few months ,what we want the Exams. Boards to examine and how. Most of us in this forum are in broad agreement about the most effective pedagogical approaches to take when teaching languages . The question remains,who has the clout to take this up with the powers that be ? Are there petitions to sign? Focus groups and working parties to join ? Letters to be written to the TES et al ? We all care passionately about the future of language teaching and learning, if we didn`t we wouldn`t be spending time on this forum.,but I repeat ,who knows a way forward.?
     
  2. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Hmmm, yes. That is a bit tricky. Don't we have national bodies that are supposed to represent the interests of MFL? ALL? CILT? Do they have no influence?
    I think that one of the biggest obstacles, to be honest, is that we are not agreed on the way we'd like things to be. There is a lot of disagreement about methodology etc as well as about assessment, how it should be carried out, how often etc. I'd be interested to hear some points of view on this.
    Is there anybody who thinks that the current GCSE assessment procedures (with CAs etc) are a good thing? Surely there must be, as the new GCSE in MFL is (at leat partly) the result of a of consultation process (consulting of the views of MFL professionals, teachers, organisations etc)?
     
  3. That's right, you will find lots of students doing languages other than English. In Germany, English is compulsory for everyone from year 3. This is not surprising and it is indeed logical as nearly everybody will need English for a successful working life. But, and this is a big but: in Grammar Schools, a second foreign language is compulsory, too. About a third of the students in Bavaria do Latin, the rest does French. Then they have the choice to enter the language branch and do a third foreign language, which can be French, Spanish, Italian or Russian. I don't know how many students do this each year, but it's lots. Then, they have the possibility to drop English, latin or French (depending which was their second language) and do a new language instead, which may be Mandarin, Spanish, French, Russian, Turkish, Modern Greek, Arabic, Japanese.... There's also lots of students each year who do this. this means that very able children can learn up to 4 languages, even 4 MFL.
    I did English, Latin and French at school and started Spanish at university.
    In France, every child has to do 2 MFL.
     
  4. Hi, Noemie. As you say, it would be good to hear other people's views on this. I'd be equally interested to know the source of your information that German has overtaken English in terms of popularity in France. I would be surprised if that were true. And 'most European teenagers are fluent in at least more than one language other than English'. Again, not my experience, but I'd love to be proved wrong. Does anyone know the answer?
     
  5. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Maybe it's just me then, but that's the experience I have from my country. And apparently that of Sarah from Germany.
    Sorry I didn't word it right, I didn't mean that German had overtaken English in France, but that with a significant number of teenagers it had become more popular since Tokio Hotel. I read that in a paper a couple of years ago when they were at their peak, although I don't know where they got their data from.
    You may find this interesting: http://www.vousnousils.fr/2010/09/17/l%E2%80%99enseignement-des-langues-vivantes-en-france-etat-des-lieux-18-324774 I don't pretend to understand much about the French education system, but according to this article pupils in 4e (Y9) all study a second foreign language on top of English, which they can later drop; in the 6th form, all pupils doing "seconde générale" (whatever that is) now have to do two languages, with 7% doing 3.
    (I thought I'd paraphrase the article, in case there are some non French speakers reading this thread)
    As for fluency, we could argue forever as to what exactly that means, so I wouldn't want to attempt it. Maybe Switzerland is just exceptional but I wouldn't have thought so...
     
  6. It depends on which country you are talking about. It varies a lot. The Swiss often speak three foreign languages, so do the Dutch and Belgians. Germans on the the whole master English very well, but I cannot say I have met many Germans who speak good French, but I have met quite a few who can speak reasonable Italian.
    Back in July 2001 I attended a conference in Berlin, organised by the European Language Council. Dr Hans-Friedrich von Ploetz, Germany's former ambassador to the UK, gave a keynote presentation titled "Multilinguales Europa: Illusion oder Zukunftschance?" He indicated that the poor uptake of languages post-16 in the UK at that time, with only 6% of post-16 students studying a foreign language at school, had caused concern not only among UK educationalists but also among the representatives of several European countries in the UK.
    The other problem highlighted by Dr von Ploetz was that the dominance of English as lingua franca throughout Europe had pushed its main competitors, i.e. French, German, Spanish and Italian, into very poor second places in most European countries. The trend was to study English plus the language of a neighbouring country, e.g. Danish in Northern Germany, or French in Northern Spain. This more or less kills off the EC's vision of a multilingual society, especially when one of the major players is resolutely monolingual, i.e. the vast majority of UK citizens don't even achieve the CEF Threshold Level (B1) in a foreign language, and in the rest of Europe French, German, Spanish and Italian have lost considerable ground.
    The Finns are very good speakers of English, and they all have at least a smattering of Swedish, which is the second official language in Finland. They may know some German and Russian too. But my experience at a conference for language teachers in Finland showed that French is definitely not one of their main foreign languages. One of the keynotes was given in French - all the others were in English. As soon as the French speaker began his presentation most of the Finns walked out - a bit rude, I think, but without simultaneous interpreting being provided they would not have understood a great deal. Dr von Ploetz's keynote in Berlin was interpreted simulataneously into English and French.
    Regards
    Graham Davies
     
  7. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    Is there anybody who thinks that the current GCSE assessment procedures
    (with CAs etc) are a good thing? Surely there must be, as the new GCSE
    in MFL is (at leat partly) the result of a consultation process
    (consulting the views of MFL professionals, teachers, organisations
    etc)?
     
  8. Very interesting indeed. I have been so out of touch lately with what was happening in France that I had not realised there had been changes.
    My own school experience in France was: 1st Language, English, in "6e" (Year7). Second language, German, in "4e" (Year 9), both compulsory.
    In "seconde" (which is is equivalent to Year 11 but part of 6th Form in France), it was still compulsory to study one foreign language. We also had the option to study a second and even a third language. I personally chose to drop my second language and take "anglais renforcé" which means that I had extra lessons in English (another possibility).
    During my first year at Uni, it was also compulsory to study a foreign language no matter what your main subject. I therefore decided to take Spanish as I was already studying English.
    What is interesting in this article is that it seems that since the beginning of this academic year it is now compulsory to study two foreign languages in "seconde" in France. Quite a change from the optional MFL GCSE in the UK.
    Regarding languages learnt, the article quote 98% of French secondary students learn English, 40% learn Spanish and 15% learn German (whether as a first, second or third language).
    So to answer a previous post: yes, English is the main language taught in France (and probably in other European countries), it seems to make sense economically speaking.
    It actually works out quite well though, if you think about it: if young people in Europe did not learn English, the UK would be even more isolated that it already is physically!
    (Although some might argue it would not be such a bad idea [​IMG] )

     
  9. i agree with this. We teach uisng the AQA endorsed Kerboodle package here in Abu Dhabi and it is the best thing to happen to our department in years. Alas the same cannot be said of GCSE. We are currently using Expo 4 Rouge and Vert and begin GCSE in Y9. The controlled assessments are a better option than old coursework and terminal speaking exams. However, getting A* and A in these discipline is not hard if you have a particular gift for memorising chunks of French.Throw in a couple of gallic shrugs and the odd 'tu sais', 'ben err' and 'n'est-ce pas' and there you go.
    The gap (chasm) between GCSE and AS is widening. If you want to produce gifted linguists, ask them to write 200 words in an hour from scratch. That will sort the hommes from the garçons. If you want to produce exam monkeys, let them learn paragraphs off by heart to regurgitate.
    The industry is at a crossroads. French is in decline and as a nation we are still the linguistic dunces of Europe. Quoi faire?
     
  10. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I think spsmith45 hit the nail on the head in a recent exchange on the mflresources forum:
    "I'll just throw in the "backwash effect" again! (If anyone
    is not familiar with this term, it is when your assessment
    system affects your teaching style.) In this case we are
    already seeing text books with lots of English in. British
    teachers LOVE teaching to the test."
    If teaching to the test meant teaching students to be able to be
    flexible and to manipulate language effectively, teachers would spend
    there lesson time teaching language rather than preparing for
    assessments. The way teachers teach is determined by the way they (are
    forced to) assess. Too much KS3 teaching is built around so-called
    progression through the NC levels. Too much KS4 teaching is based on
    producing CAs, or working towards the CAs (e.g. teaching language that
    you know will be useful in the CA that you have planned, even though you
    haven't told them about it yet, so it can't be classed as preparation
    for the CA).
     
  11. landaise

    landaise Occasional commenter

    Post 27: It has been compulsory to study TWO languages in Seconde for several years, indeed through to Terminale ! I don't know about Bac Pro but certainly in the Général and technologique bacs this has been a necessity for a long time. My son, in S, has to take English and Spanish exams when he is in Terminale.
    Second LV starts being learned in 4ème, first LV is begun in Primary. When in 5ème there is an option to take Latin, sometimes Greek. My youngest is doing Latin : she's 12. By the time she leaves collège, aged 15, she'll be studying English, Latin and Spanish.
     
  12. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    The new "bac" based on 5 good GCSE passes in En, Ma, Sci, Hum and MFL is going to happen, it seems. That has got to be great news for MFL, hasn't it?
    - Schools to be judged on league tables based on passes in these 5 subjects. (Currently 16% of pupils achieve the "bac")
    I'd like to see universities giving preference to students with the new "bac". Time will tell, I guess.
    (Still doesn't affect the need to sort out the exam system.)
     
  13. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I think spsmith45 hit the nail on the head in a recent exchange on the mflresources forum:
    "I'll just throw in the "backwash effect" again! (If anyone
    is not familiar with this term, it is when your assessment
    system affects your teaching style.) In this case we are
    already seeing text books with lots of English in. British
    teachers LOVE teaching to the test."
    If teaching to the test meant teaching students to be able to be
    flexible and to manipulate language effectively, teachers would spend
    there lesson time teaching language rather than preparing for
    assessments. The way teachers teach is determined by the way they (are
    forced to) assess. Too much KS3 teaching is built around so-called
    progression through the NC levels. Too much KS4 teaching is based on
    producing CAs, or working towards the CAs (e.g. teaching language that
    you know will be useful in the CA that you have planned, even though you
    haven't told them about it yet, so it can't be classed as preparation
    for the CA).
     
  14. landaise

    landaise Occasional commenter

    Calling a new version of GCSEs the ' bac ' is an absolute farce. I know it's just for want of a better name but there really should be firm distinction made. GCSEs are easier than the Brevet des Collèges, taken in the equivalent of Year 10.
     
  15. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I agree, it shouldn't be called a bac.
    And it's just a new layer of recognition for those with 5 good GCSEs in the the required range of subjects. (Not a new exam in any way.)
     
  16. I think that the 'bac' idea could be a great step forward for MFL. It builds in a motivation for continuing to study a language and will make its study aspirational. What it neatly avoids is making MFL compulsory in KS4. A pity since it seems only a tiny minority of other Europeans are unable to study a language to the age of 16 or most cases 18, but probably for the best in UK.
    I agree that another name needs to be found. The Welsh bac exists alongside A Level, bac implies study post 16.
    I am watching The Wright Stuff and they have just read out a brilliant email of the subject of whether students should be made to study MFL.
    'Why bother to learn to speak another language? When you go to Spain, Italy and Germany they all speak English so well.
    Why bother to play football? When you go to Spain, Italy and Germany they all...........'
     
  17. landaise

    landaise Occasional commenter

    I sincerely hope that what I heard on Sky news this morning is true, there was talk of the necessity of pupils to have exam success in English, Maths, Science, History/Humanities and a language, the five GCSEs having to be in those subjects.
    The Brevet des Collèges I mentioned has exams in Maths, French and History-Geography. Pupils also have to have competence in their first foreign language ( done by evaluation, not exam at this level ) and in IT.
    Good news for MFL, also for History which has been seriously undevalued over the years, too.
     
  18. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    I think that, if this is done properly, we'll end of with something better than compulsary MFL, for the following reasons:
    <ol>[*]Lots of students don't give a sh1t about their education.[*]Lots of students do give a sh1t about their education, but not about MFL.[*]With compulsary MFL (ie. as it was when we had langs for all) you could make students do MFL, but you couldn't make 'em give a sh1t about it.[*]The many students who give a sh1t about their education will be pretty much forced to give a sh1t about MFL.[*]Those who don't give a sh1t won't give a sh1t no matter what you do.</ol>Apologies for all the sh1t! [​IMG]

     
  19. mlapworth

    mlapworth Occasional commenter

    That's what I'm saying. See post 31 above. [​IMG]
     
  20. That's what I think too. However things never seem to work out for the best. There always seems to be some damaging compromise.
     

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