How important is a foreign language at GCSE level?

(90 Posts)
saladfingers Fri 08-Feb-13 15:39:01

My DD is adamant that she doesn't want to do a GCSE in French/Spanish/German but as we live in Wales will have to do at least short course Welsh couupled with RE which will be half a GCSE each as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate.She has no idea what she wants to do at A level or beyond.I would really like her to keep her options open at this stage and to have the broadest range of subjects.She wants to do the combined science course(Physics/Biology/chemistry) which will be 2 GCSEs,English,Maths,ICT,Geography,Art and Psychology which will be a total of 9.

My concern is the lack of a MFL.Do you think it is essential? I wish it was compulsary.How many of you have another language? I know I wish I did!

I know exactly what you mean salad. I did French and Spanish GCSE and failed both. sad

DS1 is in Year 9. He hates French so can't wait to drop that, but loves German so he is going to do that.

Haven't had any options evening/literature as yet. I am struggling to believe he is at the Options stage already TBH. sad

SwedishEdith Fri 08-Feb-13 16:51:25

I don't think you could count a GCSE as "having another language". Is she's adamant she doesn't want to do it, my bitter experience is, let her choose something else. I don't think you can force an interest in a foreign language.

ohfunnyhoneyface Fri 08-Feb-13 16:54:58

Bribe her with the promise of a trip to spain if she gets an A*???

I would encourage it- shuts down options in the future without it.

DeepRedBetty Fri 08-Feb-13 17:00:38

If she's absolutely determined not to study a MFL as a whole subject, she will at least get the benefit of learning some Welsh - which when all's said and done is a MFL with a fantastic literary heritage and relationships with Latin. Once you have a faint idea of how one foreign language works you've got a much better idea of how others function. I'd pick a different battle. Her list sounds pretty good to me.

At ours, at least one MFL is compulsory except for a small minority with significant learning disabilities.

DeepRedBetty Fri 08-Feb-13 17:01:47

Of course bribery might do the trick as funnyhoneyface suggests grin

ZZZenAgain Fri 08-Feb-13 17:08:12

I agree, surely Welsh counts as a MFL if it is not her mother tongue. She might even be able to speak it to some degree if the language is spoken where she lives and she has access to Welsh language tv - which is more than a lot of pupils can do in French, Spanish and German tbh. Does anyone remember the thread on GCSE languages a while back where someone told us about a GCSE examination in German with a candidate who basically spoke English with a German accent and threw in a lot of "wonderbra!". I have to say that really tickled me. Standards are not that high IME OP but do check if your dd wants to do a university course whether she would fulfill entry requirements in terms with the Welsh/RE course.

SanityClause Fri 08-Feb-13 17:11:05

DD1's school don't insist, but they strongly advise.

Apparently, recently a girl from the school was turned down for medicine because of no MFL at GCSE. I'm not sure why they put such store by it, but I suppose if on a popular course, they have to find reasons to turn good candidates down.

IndridCold Fri 08-Feb-13 17:38:54

I think it depends what your DD is going to want to do at 18; if she wants a degree, in what subject and from what sort of university.

For a popular degree at a RG uni I think it would be a mistake not to have a MFL at GCSE. It's not so much about being able to speak another language, but about breadth of education.

If this sort of trajectory is not what she/you have in mind then it's probably less important.

I do sympathise with you though if she doesn't like languages, it's hard not to feel mean forcing them to study subjects they hate.

Branleuse Fri 08-Feb-13 17:39:56

bribe her?

GrimmaTheNome Fri 08-Feb-13 17:49:14

I haven't seen any university entrance requirements which specify an MFL at gcse (obv if its a language course they'd expect a level but clearly the OP's DD won't be doing that!).

It sounds like she's doing a good mix of subjects and she's doing the half in Welsh. An MFL is a good thing but not essential and probably no point doing it unless you're going to try to do it well.

Does the Welsh Bacc insist on an MFL or just Welsh - not that the EBacc is anything other than league table metric, so doubt WBacc is either.

creamteas Fri 08-Feb-13 17:50:33

I would encourage her, but when it comes to applications to university. Unless it is a very competitive course, having a language will not make a lot of difference to her university applications. An A in a subject she wants to study will be far more important than a fail in an MFL.

There are lots of stories that circulate about RG uni's turning students down because they don't have a language, but given that reasons for rejection are rarely reported to applicants, this is usually people guessing rather than facts.

And most universities offer language tuition so she could always take it up later.

changeforthebetter Fri 08-Feb-13 18:26:49

Medical students do electives and knowledge of another language broadens the possibilities for that.

GCSE MFL is not the greatest of subjects because of the way the assessment is structured- too much learning chunks of language parrot fashion. That said, I would strongly recommend a FL GCSE because it does demonstrate a breadth of learning which is cultural as well as linguistic. Britain is awfully monolingual and it is not good for us, nor our economy.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 08-Feb-13 21:05:40

Well, here is a link to course requirements for cambridge - I presume you can find such details for all universities online if you look.

And this lays a few myths to rest.

senua Fri 08-Feb-13 21:54:56

My DD is adamant that she doesn't want to do a GCSE in French/Spanish/German

That's a bit of a closed statement. Is there any reasoning behind it?

FadBook Fri 08-Feb-13 22:09:50

I got an F in my German GCSE, I hated the subject, lessons and teacher. It was compulsory, despite me wanting to do History or Geography but it wasn't a 'choice' at the time (17 years ago) <still bitter>

Anyhoo, I got 8 GCSE's grades B-C (and not forgetting the F), and went on to do A'levels, a degree and post grad qualifications. The lack of language GCSE has never held me back.

As a now HR Manager, I can honestly say I look at grades of GCSE's rather than subjects (other than of course English and Maths) when reviewing cv's. Unless she wants to be a translator, work overseas or has a lifelong ambition to work in a global Company that operates here and in France/Germany/Spain, I'd let her drop the language. If I needed to know a language now, I'd put myself through a distant learning course or check out the local college for a short course; I genuinely could stand 2 years of attempting to learn something I wasn't interested in, nor did I feel it was relevant.

changeforthebetter Tue 12-Feb-13 21:33:51

But FadBook as an HR manager you are bound to disregard FL skills since you don't possess them or rate them. I admire your confidence that you could pick up a language so easily as an adult. Adolescence, or ideally much earlier, is a much better time to learn at least one FL. Once you have a good grounding in one then subsequent study becomes easier. Plus skills acquired in MFL study also augment overall communicative skills in your mother tongue.

Look the GCSE MFL is a bit shit but it will give her the grounding she needs and for pity's sake, don't listen to the "you only need languages for a few jobs and you have to be fluent" spiel. Not true! There is lots online about languages work and the potential is much greater than Fad would have you believe.

FadBook Tue 12-Feb-13 23:54:15

Admire my confidence - passive aggressive much? I'm not going to get in to a big debate about this as the OP hasn't come back on to comment on any posts since her first (where are you OP?). However, I put my perspective and opinion across, perhaps poorly, so I will attempt to be more specific in what I was getting at.

At 14 to 18, GCSE's are the be all and end all to most children (and parents); they work hard and parents encourage, praise and sometimes reward, in an attempt to steer and guide their child in the right direction in achieving a set of grades which will stand them in good stead.

This then happens again in further education, or if they seek employment, and again at higher education - obviously making important decisions that may affect their career throughout their life so lots of thought goes in to it.

There's a lot of pressure to be taking a 'broad' range of GCSE's and many kids and parents become stressed and loose sight of what the individual (the young person) actually likes doing. Gosh, even some teachers will have their motives when advising what options children should take (they have league tables and targets to meet, they won't want potential 'lower grade' students bringing their GCSE grades down....).

So, my first point being - listen to your child. What are their interests? What do they enjoy? What are they good at? What do they want to be when they're older? Then from there, map out what GCSE's will keep them challenged, interested and give them a start in their career (if they know!) If language is enjoyable and may be beneficial to them, then absolutely pursue it.

My second point is to do with what potential employers look for, and I disagree that a foreign language is an important one. Perhaps I'm naive on this point (I'm a reflector so I will consider this!) but to me, between 16 and 22, a young person has either chosen further or higher education, or ventured in to the world of full time employment. At the age of 22, a foreign language GCSE isn't the be all or end-all unless they've chosen a career path that meant it was necessary to know/speak another language other than English. And if this was the case, they would have pursued this at AS or A levels or at Uni. So, post 22 years old, most employers would be more interested in what they have done between the ages of 16 and 21 in Education, work experience or employment, and GCSE's would of course be reviewed, but not in as much 'depth' as period after GCSE's.

I'm not 'playing down GCSE's but I'm trying to explain that many employers, wouldn't look to see if the person had a foreign language GCSE unless specific to job role. I have worked in large international and national organisations and small ones across a variety of sectors from retail, manufacturing, logistics and finance/insurance and head offices (so marketing, buying, finance, IT depts). In my honest opinion, I've never come across a job role vacancy that required a GCSE in a foreign language, nor has an appointment been made whereby a candidate with an additional language has meant they've bagged the job - it just hasn't come up so I can only base my opinion on experience of working in HR for 10 years.

Perhaps a foreign language could improve overall communication, I have no idea about that point, but in the context of the OP's dilemma, the DD already speaks Welsh, so if true, would have good communication already.

jellybeans Wed 13-Feb-13 00:26:30

We were advised for DDs to take a language and either history or geography as it may be required in future by universities. Luckily mine do languages in earlier years so didn't have to choose as an option although DD is considering a second.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 13-Feb-13 08:50:33

>We were advised for DDs to take a language and either history or geography as it may be required in future by universities.

Seems to me extremely unlikely. I rather suspect schools who say this are being a bit disingenuous - what they really are worried about is their league tables. Of course, for many able children including both a language and one of the humanities in their GCSEs is a good thing for providing 'breadth' and not shutting doors too early.

FadBook Wed 13-Feb-13 09:22:43

Grimma - you sound as sceptical as me when it comes to schools 'advising' to do something (and I'm the partner of a teacher) grin

GrimmaTheNome Wed 13-Feb-13 09:43:09

Yes - perhaps in part because DDs school doesn't go overboard on the EBacc - its an excellent GS so they're all capable, and they are encouraged to do a spread of subjects but the humanity doesn't have to be History or Geography. And having read a few sets of uni entrance requirements. Strikes me that people running universities are intelligent enough to know that children who are making choices now will be applying to them in several years time - if there isn't a requirement for EBacc stated now , this cohort will not be required to have it then.

wordfactory Wed 13-Feb-13 10:13:24

Both DC's schools require at least one MFL to be taken at GCSE.
Both schools take the view that not to do so closes doors. Doors that ought to be left wide open at 14!

Both schools believe that a good education should be broad. And that it's a Good Thing to be able to demonstrate broad knowledge and ability in the great scheme of things.

Neither however, insist on Mr Gove's narrow definition of a humanity. DD's Head was very scathing at parents' evening, calling him a philistine grin.

wordfactory Wed 13-Feb-13 10:33:39

Should also say though fadbook that I think the issue here isn't whether any particular GCSE will be useful in thw world of work, or looked for by an employer.

It's more a case of certain GCSEs getting you where you need to be; setting you on the right path.

Most employers wouldn't give a tinker's cuss if candidates had GCSEs in Music, Latin or PE. But they are looking out for candidates with good degrees, in robust subjects, from top universities.

And gettiing onto those course is getting ever more competitive. Admissions tutors are increasingly finding themselves with applicants holding identikit stellar A levels. So they look to the GCSEs and (providing the grades are good) the broader the spread the better.

Chicken and the egg.

gabsid Wed 13-Feb-13 11:26:40

ohfunnyhoneyface - wouldn't it make sense to do the trip to Spain while she does the GCSE and not after she gets the results?

If you have a love for the country, culture and people you will want to learn the language, so a trip might convince her.

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