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Why teach French at all in 2018?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by Jonntyboy, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. yasf

    yasf Occasional commenter

    Clearly not, which is why things are changing.

    Your comments about French show a shocking ignorance about the French speaking world though. Comments worthy of a Brexiter. You just had a row with one of the French teachers in your department or something?
  2. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy New commenter

    1. A row? Not at all. I teach French too and we all get on extremely well. It's a good department.

    2. I am a Brexiter, but I can't see that being much to do with France. It's simply because I don't like unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats running things. I believe that democracy is the imperfect, but the best so far tried, way to run countries.

    3. Why do you say that my comments show ignorance about the French-speaking world? I can't recall writing much about it.
  3. yasf

    yasf Occasional commenter

    Now there's a surprise.
  4. MosaiK

    MosaiK Occasional commenter

    ... and I agree.
    Having mainly taught French (a language I grew up with) for many years, over more recent years I have begun to ask myself the very same question. Who picked French to be 'the main language' to be taught in the UK? I totally understand the point about more people learn it, therefore more people study it and in return more people become French teachers over say German, Spanish and others... In all the schools I have taught at in this country, German (another language I grew up with) increasingly decreased in popularity, in a few was even stopped. Spanish however has already been mentioned as an 'easier' language to learn for English speakers, compared with French and German. I well believe that, although I do not speak Spanish, and I was not born into English.
    From the point of view of someone who did not grow up with the most global language, I can say that the fact that French being the main taught language in this country appears mostly historic indeed. Historic ties between Britain and France, historic reasons for staffing (see above), a history of holidays, geographic reasons etc... the list is probably endless. However the main reasons today are really staffing and finances, as has been mentioned in other posts, so I shan't go there again.
    Let's be honest, our children cannot see the point in learning a language because they can't see the wider benefits (grammar, thinking, problem-solving, cultural awareness etc... another endless list), so given a choice they would probably choose a language of a country they might be most likely to go to on holiday. Greek is hardly an option, certainly not in any of the schools I ever came across in the UK, so Spanish it is.
    Of course, if you then start looking at economic factors, business links, progress... then you would need to look further afield to select languages which if taught to our children will help them to contribute to the development of the country.
    Now here are some questions.
    Are we teaching children a language for language's sake? Then it doesn't matter which one we teach them.
    Are we teaching them a language in the hope to give them a good future? Then it still doesn't actually matter, as long as they can see the point in it. Any language they learn to a good level and enjoy too, is likely to play a role in their future. E.g. the poster who learnt French and ended up in a range of French-speaking countries may have ended up elsewhere, had they learnt and enjoyed Mandarin or Urdu.
    Are we instilling the love of languages in our children by teaching mainly French which may have a romantic reputation (though not to youngsters in my experience) but which was also taught to their parents and if they didn't enjoy it, they are unlikely to pass on the love for it... so why not teach them another language?
    In my personal opinion, instilling the love of languages and increasing the acceptance and tolerance of other languages would be a lot easier for us MFL teachers (regardless of the language we teach) if the media relaxed a bit and started broadcasting a bit more in foreign languages.
    I mainly grew up in Austria. Not only does this land-locked country have land borders with 8 other countries, but we also grew up listening to music from a variety of (not-necessarily bordering) countries in different languages on the radio. A daily if not hourly occurence! It went beyond French and English. It made us listen up and pick up on other languages and developed our curiosity to know more, regardless of which language we were taught at school - though English was the first foreign language we learnt at school - all of us, no questions asked. ;)

    It's ok to disagree with each other's opinions but please let's not become personal about each other. It would defeat the point of these discussion boards. I like to think that many of us enjoy the discussion we can have here as opposed to various social media sites, where a civil discussion appears impossible.o_O
    Rant over.:eek::rolleyes:
    sbkrobson and Jonntyboy like this.
  5. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    Anecdotally I hear from a friend in the private sector that Latin and Greek are very popular there because they count for the baccalaureate but there is no speaking.
  6. JL48

    JL48 Star commenter

  7. boatie

    boatie New commenter

    There are many reasons why French is still useful: don't believe me, look at the British Council's "Languages for the Future" 2017 report! Here's the link: https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/languages_for_the_future_2017.pdf
    This discussion has reminded me to put something on TES resources which I have been using as a series of motivational starters with Y9 language groups. Will do that in a sec.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  8. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy New commenter

    I don't think that language teachers are "behind the times". I think we all know that Spanish is increasing in popularity and German decreasing. I can't see any logical way that one can infer from the posts on this thread that any of the serious contributors are not aware of that.

    I also don't believe that MFLs will cease to be taught either. I wonder if there is any evidence to support such a claim.
  9. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy New commenter

    Thank you very much for that link. I have read through it and it makes fascinating reading. Some of the comments within seem potentially to contradict the figures given, and I suppose that may be because the situation is so fluid at the moment. What interested me perhaps most was the following:

    Table 3: Top ten emerging markets in order of expected growth to 2020, together with their official languages:

    Country - Official language
    India - Hindi, English
    Vietnam - Vietnamese
    Ghana - English
    Indonesia - Bahasa / Melayu
    China - Mandarin
    Malaysia - Malay
    Thailand -Thai
    UAE - Arabic
    Turkey - Turkish
    Poland - Polish

    I was surprised not to see anywhere in South America mentioned at all...

    I wonder how many of us will be learning/teaching any of the "rarer" ones among those in ten years!
  10. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy New commenter

    Absolutely, MosaiK - surely a major benefit of cross-cultural activities between languages.

    Thank you for your reasoned and interesting reply. :)
    Lara mfl 05 and MosaiK like this.
  11. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy New commenter

    I note that you seem to post short, slightly unpleasant and somewhat pointless comments without any reasoning or evidence, and when challenged, fail to respond with logic or rational argument.

    But this, I think, so far, is only indicative, not proof, of the fact that you may be a forum troll, so just to remind you in case you are not, this was my polite question in response to one of your earlier posts:

    "Why do you say that my comments show ignorance about the French-speaking world? I can't recall writing much about it."

    Perhaps you could answer it if you have a moment?
  12. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    All vey interesting although some flaws in the argument. Expected growth is a misnomer. A small economy can grow spectacularly but still remain comparatively small in world terms. And also it depends where you are. Australia,yes Indonesian languages will be significant, I'm not convinced that here in Europe it will be the same. That said we need to view learning any language as a means of acquiring the skills to learn another. And you just don't know what will happen next. I am second generation Lithuanian. When I was growing up there were only 4000 of us in the UK. You could do Lithuanian o level then and get a £10 prize! During the independence struggle in the 80s/90s there were no speakers in the UK. My dad did some translation work for the media. He was the only one to be found in London one day when something massive happened. Now there are Lithuanians literally on every corner where I live. One of my last presents to my dad before he died was a pot of honey from a beekeeper in his old village bought in shop just down the road from his house. A far cry from the day long ago when the man in the local post office told us there was no such place.
    MosaiK likes this.
  13. MosaiK

    MosaiK Occasional commenter

    Do I assume rightly that you are referring to Ancient Greek and to the English Baccalaureate as opposed to Modern Greek or International Baccalaureate? :confused:
    From my own personal opinion, I can tell you that both Latin and Ancient Greek were part of my school's curriculum when I grew up. Not only did they give me an unsurpassed insight into grammar, but they brought the Romans and Ancient Greeks to life for me too. On the down-side however, I hated all the revision that went with both languages and the time I had to spend practising translations. :eek:
    Here in the East of the UK, both are offered at Private Schools and I know of at least two High Schools, where Latin is also offered, though I believe it is an option alongside one MFL.
    As for the English Baccalaureate, I personally have little respect for it. Firstly I think that its name is misleading and secondly I see it as another UK data exercise - and I feel that number-crunching can too easily take the fun out of active MFL (and other subjects') lessons. :rolleyes:
    Though I am aware that this is my personal opinion, I suspect it is shared by others - as kind of the elephant in the room, when SLT discuss data with staff... ;)
  14. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy New commenter

    Hi MosaiK. As regards Latin, we did it at school to GCSE, but Greek wasn't offered, though the Latin teacher knew it and could teach it. As a schoolboy in Y7, I very kindly offered to take it instead of mathematics, which I detested and still do, but as I recall the school declined this generous offer in a rather discourteous manner...

    Over the past eleven years, I have taught in four schools. One does Latin as a full subject, one offers it for an hour a week in Y9 as part of the school's enrichment programme, one offers it as a voluntary option after school, and one doesn't want to know. The common denominator for those that offer it is that they all use the Cambridge Latin Course, which in my opinion is one of the best-constructed language courses I have even come across.

    What surprised me most, when I first taught it, was how the kids seemed to enjoy getting to grips with it.
    MosaiK likes this.
  15. MosaiK

    MosaiK Occasional commenter

    I can totally see why students would enjoy learning Latin these days as they did in my school days. After all, most children I have come across, have been fascinated by the Romans and their role in history. So why not teach it too! The added bonus, though probably the one I found the least interesting at school, would be that Latin is a greatly structured language and therefore gives learners an amazing insight into grammar and furthermore in many cases also an awareness of the origin of their own language. :D
    Latin is a rather logical language until you hit the higher levels, so I think it is also great to develop children's logic and problem-solving skills. :cool:
    The point made by @meggyd nearer the top of this page about Latin and A. Greek not having a spoken exam yet counting towards the English Bac is a very valid one and should be one taken into account by more schools. :)
    cathr likes this.
  16. cathr

    cathr Occasional commenter

    Are 10 years sufficient to master a language enough to teach it???
  17. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    Depends what you do in that time!
    MosaiK likes this.
  18. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy New commenter

    As Megydd has said, it depends on what you do. I think that a person who has already studied a couple of latin or germanic-based european languages should be able to attain pretty good mastery of a new one within a couple of years, given serious study and some time - I'd suggest at least 6 months would be needed - spent in the country.
    Clearly, some are harder than others - someone knowing Spanish won't find Italian tough at all, but might well find Arabic or Russian difficult - there's the new alphabet for starters. Even more difficult might be a language such as Thai or Mandarin, where as well as a new alphabet, tiny (at least to my ears!) tonal and pitch changes alter the meaning.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  19. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    A colleague who was an experienced language teacher went to live in Macau and was keen to learn Chinese. You could find a more motivated learner. At the end of her stay she had picked up some Portuguese but very little Chinese. I think of her when I hear of schools introducing Mandarin. I am sure it is possible but I wonder how kids who still come out with je m' apple at GCSE will manage.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  20. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    You could NOT find a more motivated learner!!!!!!
    Lara mfl 05 and MosaiK like this.

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