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.

gabsid Wed 13-Feb-13 11:32:24

I wouldn't count a GCSE in a language as 'having another language' but together with an interest in another culture it might tempt her to do it at A-level, and I feel that's when it starts to be fun and interesting because you can use the language, e.g. have a chat, read, watch a bit of TV etc and progress from there.

I feel learning another language can open another world and make her more open-minded and accepting of other people and cultures.

FadBook Wed 13-Feb-13 11:45:19

grin @ mr Gove being described a philistine! My DP would love that. His name is a swear word in our house!!

I see what you're saying, for entry in to University, it could put you in a better position to have a humanity or language as GCSE, to then get on the course which may have many many applications.

I suppose, for me, my experience stops at recruiting graduates (as in on an actual graduate programme). I have only recruited for very specialist roles which require degrees or post grad degrees, such as IT, Buying, marketing, Area or logistics managers so would look at relevant degrees/education specific to their relevant field or industry.

I am still surprised that a language is seen as something which "keeps doors open" when to me, in the world of work, later down the line, it would be a tiny factor which I might review personally. I'll speak to a ex colleague about this as he runs a very successful graduate programme so I'd be interested to see if he considers GCSE's during the application stage.

I do get the link that you've made about to getting in to university though - just that too, is assuming that everyone should go to uni and obtain a degree. They are becoming more and more common and I read something the other day about more and more young people obtaining a Masters level degree to be even more competitive in the job market. This in itself only fuels the divide between the rich and poor, as a degree is costly but obtaining a masters means even more money spent on education.

As an employer, i look for a balance between education, work experience (paid or voluntary) and their own personal goals. I have recently recruited a part time role which would have suited someone at uni interested in Engineering/sales/business admin. Of the 3 candidates at Uni, not one could explain why they wanted the job other than 'I want the job'. When asking one about their degree and what their overall goal was - it was like tumble weed had rolled through the office. Another who had an idea of what he wanted to do (property developer) couldn't explain how or why he was interested in this route - and he'd nearly finished his degree but didn't know what he'd do next So, whilst an education is great and definitely puts you in a better position than not having one, don't under estimate how important a young persons personality, goals and experience is considered when going for jobs. We actually offered the job to a SAHM who'd wanted to get back in to work. Her goals were clear, she could do the job and I have no idea what GCSE's she has! grin

Copthallresident Wed 13-Feb-13 12:18:53

It was compulsory at my DDs' school and one DD did two MFL but perhaps they were influenced by living overseas and seeing the world as a global not national place. Both are DDs so natural ability was not a factor in their enthusiasm.

DD1 is a Scientist and currently applying for internships, for two of these she requires one of her MFLs. She has taken up the opportunity to further her knowledge of a third language at uni (most now offer the opportunity alongside their main subject of study).

DH's company is global, hence overseas stint, and does not recruit anyone on to their graduate schemes without at least one MFL to GCSE, preferably two, and preferably with competence to higher levels.

FadBook Is that really your experience of graduate recruitment. I was involved in my company's milk round recruitment until I changed direction and became an academic ten years ago. The gormless graduates who didn't care enough to have researched the company and role were very much the exception rather than the rule. Most were very articulate, motivated and well prepared. I am if anything more impressed by our undergraduates who each year seem to be ever more successful in their choice of careers whether it is banking, law and business, travel and hospitality or NGOs but then they have studied another part of the world and most have a language that is in demand

Copthallresident Wed 13-Feb-13 12:20:13

Sorry, iPad deciding for me! Both are dyslexic.

Firewall Wed 13-Feb-13 18:20:46

If your daughter is capable of getting at least a C in a language, it would be a good idea to take it. Some universities this year have started to specify language requirements at gcse level for uk students which many have never done before. Eg for engineering at UCL. More universities may do so too in the future.

saladfingers Sat 16-Feb-13 13:06:22

Thanks for your comments.I stupidly posted just before half term started.I've been keeping 4 DCs entertained all week and have only just had the opportunity to come back see if anyone had posted.There is plenty of food for thought here.Might even share with DD.At the end of the day I don't feel that bribing or forcing a subject is going to get good results if the interest/confidence is not there to begin with,however I will continue to have this discussion with her.I'm reassured that the majority seem to feel she has chosen a broad range.

Xenia Sat 16-Feb-13 13:44:00

Traditionally clever children always did a language and children at most private schools will virtually always do one so I'd be a bit wary of her not at least keeping French on there even if it is one she gets a C or B in rather than anything better.

Of the4 ones she is doing

ombined science course(Physics/Biology/chemistry) which will be 2 GCSEs
,English (is that two GCSrs - english lit and english lang which most woudl probably expect a bright child to have?-
ICT, okay for an extra not a core one really
Geography fine
,Art extra and
Psychology extra

I woudl put her tally above as assuming 2 englishes as six of the core GCSEs children do in private and grammar schools rather than 8. I would rather she were doing a language and perhaps also history instead of what I call the extras above.

gabsid Sat 16-Feb-13 15:25:57

Its good to learn a language for all sorts of reasons, the least one would be employment prospects, in this country anyway.

But its great to learn a language well. Could you interest your DD to have a trip with language lessons in the country, e.g. one or two weeks in Spain with a host family and a couple of hours college in the morning. Its great fun, she will meet lots of now people, go on trips etc.

Just 2 weeks would give her a boost in the language and the confidence to use it.

Startail Sat 16-Feb-13 16:00:28

Unless science entry requirements have changed way better an A at some thing you can do than a C at something you hate.

Jolly glad I'm not still at a Welsh school as I was spectacularly bad at Welsh and gave up in Y9 much to mine and the teachers great relief.

lljkk Sat 16-Feb-13 16:09:50

Interesting reading. DS1 hates languages and I will not push him to do any at GCSE. I don't feel it will close down any options for him to skip MFL for now. He's not super-able or ambitious to be motivated enough to do MFL "just in case" either. He can go back & do MFL later if he becomes motivated and it's an important stepping stone to where else he wants to get.

I love languages myself & would have done loads in English system.

Startail Sat 16-Feb-13 16:12:45

Traditionally clever children at schools with reasonable MFL departments did a language.

Many state schools teach MFL very badly, I think universities have always quietly acknowledged this.

I know my cohort of bright scientist, a couple of accountants and a medic, scoured prospectuses and found that we didn't need a MFL.

The girl who did a SALT degree did and, despite being English, she did Welsh right up to A level (despite my efforts our Welsh master was great).

Things today are more competitive, but MFL teaching is still patchy.

Also dyslexics can be easily RG grade scientists, mathematicians and engineers, but spectacularly awful at MFL.

Rather than open both these cans of worms, I think most courses that don't directly need MFL don't ask for it.

Clearly it is necessary and given google easy to check.

cory Sun 17-Feb-13 10:27:35

In dc's school it is compulsory and I am very happy with this. Though GCSE French doesn't make you bilingual it is still a foundation to build on.

Where I grew up two foreign languages were compulsory and were not associated with clever children: it was just something everybody was supposed to cope with, just like they coped with the other compulsory subjects.

The "no point in doing a subject you hate" never seems to apply to maths or science- and plenty of students hate those.

But I do think parents can do a lot about selling a language. We hired a cottage in France last year, not that dc learned to speak French during a one week stay, but they did get to see that there is a world out there where people do speak French every day, quite naturally. We had fun together, so hopefully they associate the country with fun. And I took the opportunity to trawl the bookshops. Though dd hasn't said anything about it, I have found her with a dictionary working through those books.

We also have a good supply of subtitled French films, so they get used to hearing the language.

To me, it isn't so much about what future employers will ask for: it is about expanding your mind and understanding that British/American culture isn't the only one out there, that different people think differently.

I could never understand why there is so much acceptance of schools teaching languages badly, when nobody would shrug their shoulders at schools teaching sciences badly. And no, I have never needed the physics or biology I acquired at school for any employment situation. Still nice to have, though; you understand the world that little bit better. And that was what I was in no position to judge as a teenager.

Tasmania Sun 17-Feb-13 12:21:23

I personally think that parents SHOULD push their kids to do foreign languages, and do everything so that they do well in them. A lot of the jobs I got in London after uni was due to my foreign language skills...

... you are removing a lot of options for your dc if they don't at least learn one.

Startail Sun 17-Feb-13 12:43:08

cory hits the nail on the head.

As teens, the top set scientists at my school instantly got the idea languages were dull as dishwater, they were taught by the worst teachers and the SLT didn't give a damn.

Desperately unfair on those of our colleagues who went on to do English etc. who scraped French Olevel against the odds.

As an adult I am jealous of those who went to Grammar and private schools, where they were able to do a couple of subjects more and languages were able to recruit good teachers.

For my comp, it was a step too far. They got DCs into, what are now RG universities, we had medics at Oxford, pupils doing accountancy, physics etc.
Providing a fully rounded intellectual experience wasn't seen as a goal.

As DCs desperate to get our grades in our chosen subjects, we certainly didn't understand that our arsing about in MFL would, on occasions, make us feel inferior in later life.

Grove is right our DCs need a more rounded education. He is totally wrong not to include, RE, Music and Art and totally deluded in thinking that 40 years of dreadful MFL provision in state schools can be fixed by just making more children do languages.

creamteas Sun 17-Feb-13 16:02:39

My uni like many others has a range of international placements available for our students. However none of them are dependent on a MFL GCSE.

Students can study a language alongside their degree whether or not they have studied it before, and therefore still take up these options. On some courses this can be as an elective, on others it is as an addition to their main degree, but it is a possibility for any of them.

weegiemum Sun 17-Feb-13 16:11:42

In Scotland you need a mfl standard grade for uni. My dc are bilingually educated in English/Gaelic so will get 2 standard grades (gcse =) in first languages - they also have to do French. It's 7-8 standard grades, so it's English, Gaelic, Maths, French, 2xscience, MFL and Geog or history (I'm a geog teacher so that's kind of sorted lol. There's an option to drop a science for an arts subject, but it's looking like my dd1 might get to sit Art early as she's already drawing at Higher level in S1. So she could do 8 exams + art.

azulita Sun 17-Feb-13 16:38:59

my dd was all set not to do a language at GCSE but then some foreign friends came for the weekend and she suddenly changed her mind!

gabsid Sun 17-Feb-13 17:09:28

I agree with cory and azulita - it doesn't take much to change an attitude and voila they will learn.

Last summer we went to Spain and stayed in a very Spanish hotel (about 80%). The entertainment was mainly in Spanish and the non Spanish kids could easily join in. My DC (7 and 4) had a great time, I taught them a little Spanish before we went and DS even used it with some Spanish kids. DC love Spain, want to go again and they think Spanish kids are cool and very good swimmers.

In DS's infant school he learned to count to 10 and say hello in Spanish and German (he is German bilingual anyway). But now in Junior school provision seems very bad. They say he is going to learn some Spanish, but teachers say themselves that they can't speak it and hate to teach it (according to DS and a friend not connected to the school). So far there was no MFL teaching but as a HW they had to learn the days of the week in Spanish confused and that was it. I can't see that this is very motivating to take MFL further.

pastimperfect Sun 17-Feb-13 17:44:14

As a professional linguist, something I find a shame is just how little imagination schools have when it comes to languages. There is more to the world than French, German or Spanish. Or, indeed, English.

As for the OP... A language opens doors. You can see one language as a stepping stone to others - get one Romance language under your belt and there's a whole family of languages waiting for you. The trick is to have a competent and enthusiastic teacher who does more than just go through the motions.

And quite frankly, I find Fadbook's attitude towards languages deeply saddening.

Startail Sun 17-Feb-13 19:04:56

I hope that my non dyslexic DD2 will carry one with French, she loathes German (very inpatient, uninspiring teacher).

It is a huge pity that is the sum total of the choice, as she has been on holiday to Spain many times and it would be great if she could study Spanish.

This thread also high lights the other major problem with decades of MFL neglect in British schools, DH and I can between us teach science and Maths to A'level and beyond and take a pretty good stab at GCSE history, music, English and geography, it's easy to use Google to fill the gaps.

But for languages it's different, DH has O'level French and Latin, but at lower grades than anything else. He has never used them. I gave up languages at 14 with great delight. Thus we are least able to help with the subjects that our DDs least like and the cycle continues. MFLS continue to be the preserve of a few cleaver DCs with parents who were taught languages well or who are biligual.

No government has ever seen MFL as important enough to invest the money needed to improve teaching enough to ensure that there is a pool of people in the population with the language skill to help the next generation and break this pattern.

FadBook Sun 17-Feb-13 21:06:39

As a professional linguist, something I find a shame is just how little imagination schools have when it comes to languages. There is more to the world than French, German or Spanish. Or, indeed, English

I actually agree with this pastimperfect Learning Japanese, Portuguese or Mandarin would be more beneficial for a student to 'stand out' from the crowd or enter other economies. French/German/Spain are chosen because they are geographically closer to us, not necessarily because it is useful to learn the language when in employment.

And quite frankly, I find Fadbook's attitude towards languages deeply saddening.
Have you read all of my posts or just the first one and made that judgemental statement? I did further expand on my first post as I didn't' explain myself well enough. I've merely put forward an opinion from an 'employers' point of view. I admitted I haven't had the experience of them benefiting the Companies I have worked for. Of course they benefit Companies, but I have held my hands up and and said personally, I haven't seen a MFL GCSE being used during an application process for £18K plus positions. I have also agreed that MFL would be advantageous to get in to university, with many posters pointing out this is becoming an expectation. From an employment perspective, I stick to my opinion that by the age of 22, a GCSE in MFL isn't the be all or end all, but as above, I think Mandarin, Portuguese or Japanese are perhaps better languages to learn (given the emerging markets in China, Brazil and Japan)

Coconutty Sun 17-Feb-13 21:21:28

Not important at all IMO.

Far better to study something they want to do and will get a high grade in. I debated this last year when DS1 did his options and we eventually decided, after actually calling some RG universities and speaking to DHs cousin who works at Cambridge that it wasn't important at all. DS wants to be an architect and the Uni's all said GCSE MFL makes no difference at all to them.

And he's at a private school, as are lots of his friends and loads of them aren't doing a language.

The Ebaac is just for the league tables.

happily3 Mon 18-Feb-13 10:13:54

Coconutty, you say: 'the Unis all said GCSE MFL makes no difference at all to them'. Isn't that in the context of what a student is applying for? Of course they are going to highlight the subjects which are most relevant to the particular course a student is applying for, and I would guess that it is the case for many courses that a language is not necessary (and sadly GCSE is not a very high standard), but there is life beyond school and university. Competence in a foreign language is surely going to be helpful in today's world - so long as it is not the only experience a person has to offer.
We need to start languages much earlier. It would make it much easier for children to reach a more acceptable degree of competence. I'm sure ipads/computers etc.. could help with this - and encouragement from parents .. Could we ever reach a point where children did 5 minutes of their chosen language at home every other day - on the computer perhaps - the way they might practise their tables? (no, I'm not a mad parent - nor do I rush around all the time - I just doubt that languages will be able to take up much more time at school yet practice makes such a difference)
On the one hand I cherish and celebrate all the wonderful things about being British and really hope we will hold on to what's best about our country. On the other I think we appear arrogant and ignorant because so few of us care about trying to speaking anything other than English ...

Xenia Mon 18-Feb-13 12:04:14

Most of the academic private schools do require a language. You used not to be able to get to university without a language. Some employers at the top end will be surprised if there is no language on the CV so if possible I would try to ensure a child had a language.

I got 9 O levels including French (A) and German (B), and went on to do Law and French at university. My French is very good (not bilingual) and it has had a hugely positive impact on my life. Sounds a bit wierd, but we have a (little!) house in France which we renovated, and this would never have happened if I didn't speak French.

Languages are not directly relevant to my job, but I speak French fairly regularly, and find it useful to follow others, even when I am not participating directly. I even managed to speak a bit of (Bad) German at work recently (conference abroad), and having an ability with languages helps me to communicate in other languages that I can't speak (eg Italian).

Having recently travelled a lot for work in Europe, I am pretty embarrassed at how we always assume others will speak my company even fairly junior personnel in Spain, Italy, Romania speak English, and it puts us (the English) at a disadvantage.

I will be pushing my children to do at least one, preferably more languages when the time comes. I don't find that I use geography, biology, chemistry etc in quite the same way - they were useful for getting me to the next stage of education put very simply.

Whether you use it in your future life or not, I think a foreign language is an essential component of a well-rounded education.

PurpleFrog Mon 18-Feb-13 12:57:00

In Scotland you need a mfl standard grade for uni.

weegiemum - I can't find any mention of this for Science subjects at Scottish Universities...

It was true in my day for the older Scottish Universities, but they appear to have dropped that entrance requirement now.

dd can only choose 6 subjects for Nationals and really doesn't want to use up an option for French.

Startail Mon 18-Feb-13 13:14:22

However, non of this detracts from the fact that Grove is living a dream if he thinks most state school DCs are going to do a MFL if it means getting one bad grade.

Until the government seriously invest in training good MFL teachers and force the examining boards to come up with enjoyable syllabuses many many DCs are going to opt out.

No way would I have swapped my 8 straight As for 7As and a C.

)Most likely I'd have dropped to a B for history as I'd have had to do a hell of a lot of work to scrape a C at French. It just didn't make sense. For many DCs, my DD1 included it still doesn't.)

Shanghaidiva Mon 18-Feb-13 13:18:23

I took French and German back in the days when we had o levels and had excellent teachers - both were native speakers. Having looked at a few past papers from GCSE I am amazed at how low the level is for GCSE.
I think it is useful to learn another language as it gives you a greater understanding of how languages work and can improve your ability in your native tongue too.

Re - learning Mandarin instead of German or French - not a sensible suggestion in my opinion. Although mandarin is incredibly useful it would take years of study to be able to put the language to any practical use.

"dd can only choose 6 subjects for Nationals and really doesn't want to use up an option for French. "

Now there's an issue I agree - if you can only choose 6 you don't have the option of choosing subjects for breadth of education. 6 is ridiculously low at this level!

RevisionBuddies Wed 13-Mar-13 14:08:00

We think it's very important and they should be compulsory for a number of reasons. Take a look at our blog on the subject here..

nagynolonger Wed 13-Mar-13 18:04:05

It will depend on the DC. My eldest two needed a MFL gcse to get into the universities they went to. We did not find this out until we read the prospectus (sp?). So we were lucky. DD is good at languages and got A* in french and german. DS1 isn't and surprisingly managed a B. Neither did a MFL as part of their degree.

Three of my sons are dyslexic. One attempted french and failed dramatically. He hated it and it was the waste of an option. Not really fair on the teacher either IMO.
The other two didn't take a MFL. One went on to do apprenticeships so it didn't really matter in the end. The other is still doing A levels and wants to go to university. He knows he will have less choice but it was still the right choice for him.

The youngest is doing a MFL gcse this summer it was his choice.

They should not be compulsory IMO.

Mrsrobertduvall Thu 14-Mar-13 20:51:29

Ds is currently choosing options for gcse and will take a language.....either French or German.
He is equally good at both, prefers German.
For some reason, I would rather he does French...just feel it may be more useful. for what I don't know.
What do you think?

poppydaisy Thu 14-Mar-13 22:49:05

German seems more useful for business - think of all the German engineering and automotive companies as well as German and Swiss banks. Germany is also currently the only economy actually growing.
Not sure where French would be more useful...?

ZZZenAgain Fri 15-Mar-13 13:13:27

tbh any decent sized German company your dc might end up working with/trading with is going to have staff who will conduct business in English whenever required. Don't think you really need German for business for that reason.

Umlauf Fri 15-Mar-13 13:19:14

I learnt French and German at school and Spanish and Italian at degree level. The most useful by far has been Spanish. I have never used my German (although I loved learning it) beause as zzz says every German speaks incredible english. French and Spanish have been the most useful, but on a traveling basis rather than a work basis. For work, Spanish as its the most global and a very fast growing language. Italian to be has only been useful for fun, I enjoyed understanding the popes first speech for example, and can even translate latin as its so close.

Abra1d Fri 15-Mar-13 13:32:07

Sadly I agree about German, which I did for A level and also spent some time speaking as au-pair in Germany. I work with Germans sometime, and getting any German into our conversations is very hard work.

OP, if you want your daughter to compete with children from grammar and independent schools, pretty well all of whom will have a MFL, she's got to take a MFL.

poppydaisy Fri 15-Mar-13 20:44:56

ZZenAgain, speaking German would open so many doors if you're at all Science or Engineering focussed. There are some great Universities e.g. ETH in Zurich or Munich University as well as so many global succesful companies (e.g. Siemans, BMW, Daimler etc). I think speaking German would definately be a huge advantage. The pay is also so much better than in the UK.

Whilst Spanish is spoken by more, the Spanish economy is not looking great, and I'm not sure how useful for business South America is in the near future.

ZZZenAgain Fri 15-Mar-13 21:36:07

it just isn't necessary in those fields if you speak English. Loads of scientists work in Germany/Switzerland every year and most of them don't speak any German. It just isn't an impediment. Educated Germans all speak English and in all graduate level jobs in science or engineering where a UK expat might find work, you can work without a word of German. I am not knocking the language but in actual fact it is no real advantage in the workplace other than in low level employment. German companies will take the best person they can get. Whether that person speaks German or not will not make any difference IMO if they are recruiting from abroad. It would be important if you were to migrate to Germany and look for work there or for any low level employment it would be essential of course.

For a language to be really important in the workplace, it has to be a language spoken in a country where many people do not speak English well. There are other valid reasons for learning German but in terms of marketing potential on your CV it is not hugely valuable.

poppydaisy Sat 16-Mar-13 07:55:08

Sure, you can get by with English in most countries today! It is becoming a 'global' language.

But speaking a foreign language will undoubtedly set you apart from other applicants and most undergrad Uni courses are run in native languages (and are still free in many European countries).

ZZZenAgain Sat 16-Mar-13 11:04:04

German universities are mass universities. There are huge numbers entering all the courses each year and students are simply lost in the mass. There is little guidance and they are left to fend for themselves. This is simply a question of numbers. This is a result of govt. policy to open up universities to as many students as possible, entrance requirements were lowered and the old system of limiting places was dropped for almost all subjects. Medicine for instance still has limited entry yet cf UK universities the amount of students entering for a medical degree is huge. So you can imagine what other subjects are like where this system does not apply.

If an entry level course in engineering has to take place in an overcrowded lecture hall with students sitting on the floor and in the aisles, it is no comparison to a course where a small group are working together and able to ask questions, etc. You have to be an absolute self-starter which is why a great deal of students drop out. There is no tutor system equivalent to UK universities at undergraduate level. It is an option for people who come from third world countries definitely to get a degree from a recognised university but an undergraduate course taught in German is not an ideal study course for an applicant from many countries in the EU. It is better to study in your own languagefor one thing obviously you perform better and if you can, in a university with smaller numbers on each course since the ratio student-teaching staff makes a huge difference.

The thing to do perhaps would be to go to a Geman university for postgraduate or doctoral studies where numbers of students are fewer and contact to teaching staff therefore greater. However, degrees still take longer in Germany than in the UK. A lot of that is down to the fact that they are not very structured so you need to find out for yourself which credits are required and decide when you will do them , make sure you have everything done to enter for final exams. This can mean it takes 2-3 years longer to get to the same point.

Umlauf Sat 16-Mar-13 13:32:22

I agree with zen regarding German workplaces. In the research sector they are supposed to work in English, papers are mostly published inEnglish. I'm currently teaching english to a spaniard going to work in Germany, their German company he's working for are paying for him to have English lessons rather than German lessons.

The population of Spanish speakers is on the rise and Latin Americas economy is growing. Research and development in Spain has been well invested in recently, especially across northern Spain. It's probably he most useful in terms of holidaying too. French would be a close second for me.

Arisbottle Sat 16-Mar-13 14:05:40

I was talking to an Oxford tutor about this the other week. She said that while they did not need a language they liked to see it and that some universities are heading that way. For example UCL is asking for an MFL or will require study of a language when you start, I think she said Birmingham was following suit.

Startail Sat 16-Mar-13 14:26:04

Having a DD doing GCSE at the moment I'm firmly of the let them do what they like are good at camp. It's hard work and slogging away at a MFL to get a D or E when you could get a higher grade else where just isn't worth it.

It's also the one thing it's easy to learn as an adult.

poppydaisy Sun 17-Mar-13 14:00:14

How useful a language is for holidaying is very subjective. I guess most English do tend to go to Spain and/or France, so yes those might be more useful.

If, on the other hand, you go skiing in Austria and spend the summer in the Swiss/German/Austrian mountains/lakes, then German comes in more handy smile.

BadLad Wed 20-Mar-13 08:17:54


As a professional linguist

What is a professional linguist, if you don't mind me asking?

Tasmania Wed 20-Mar-13 12:46:01

I don't know where Fadbook works - but it is VERY dangerous to say that languages don't matter. Industries are becoming more globalised, and though you may never use another language apart from English in a business environment, foreign languages do help in making you look a lot less ignorant of the world at large as a Brit (if you can understand people when they whisper between them in THEIR language at meetings, it seriously helps). You know how Brits often make fun of Americans who don't really think much of what happens outside their country? Well...

Anyway, most of the jobs I got (I'm not a translator!) were due to me speaking another language. Why? In most companies I've worked for, we had / have clients outside of the UK. It was simply polite to be able to speak to them in THEIR language. They appreciate it. And if French and Germans can speak English (and even attend British and American unissued)... what on Earth is going on with the Native English speakers... why can't they do it the other way around? It's a little embarrassing, really.

More and more, the companies I have worked for are recruiting candidates from the continent who have all the skills a British candidate would have AND foreign languages to book. At one company I worked for in London, over a third of the employees were either German, French, Spanish or Scandinavians - taking most of the best-paid jobs, while the Brits were often left to do more boring, back office type jobs that came with lower salaries.

I expect this to increasingly be the case the more we move into a globalised world.

Tasmania Wed 20-Mar-13 13:03:06

P.S.: Regarding the German language... though they all speak English, it is still MUCH easier to build a rapport with people when you do speak their language/ understand their culture. As you go further up the ranks in business, it is rapport that matters most.

For example... I get MUCH quicker replies and am privy to information earlier than others because they can simply pick up the phone without much thinking and speak to me in German if they so wish.

shoobidoo Wed 20-Mar-13 14:11:38

I'm German, working for an International company in London. Speaking both English and German fluently has been a huge advantage for my career. Lots of our (smaller and medium sized) company clients have chosen us on the basis that we can talk to them in German - sure, many Germans (as well as French etc) speak basic English, but to build up a relationship speaking their languages helps.

Willy Brandt once said : "If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen sie Deutsch sprechen”

The attitude 'don't bother learning another language as everyone speaks English' is not one I'm encouraging my kids to have!

Hmmm. I disagree with lots of these comments, but then I'm an MFL teacher.
I would say language teaching is better than it used to be. And not necessarily better in private or grammar schools - it's just easier to teach languages there because the kids and their families tend to be more receptive to it. It's a hard subject to teach anyway because of the sheer amount of oral work.
Also, why do people think it would be so easy to pick up a language as an adult, for someone who was already presumably not good at it at school (where lessons and practice and resources are all laid on, rather than having to organise and practise in your own time as an adult)?
Some people just don't have an aptitude for languages. They can get good if they have the motivation or spend time with native speakers, but I'm not sure it's wise to persuade your dd if she really hates it and won't do well, OP.
It's also true, as several pepple have said, that a GCSE is really only the beginning step to 'having a language'. That's why I don't think teaching Japanese, Mandarin etc in schools is a very good idea except for the most able pupils - it takes a long time to get to a reasonable level.

cory Wed 20-Mar-13 16:22:25

I never got the "nobody should be forced to do a language if they are not interested/haven't got a talent/it might bring down their grades"- argument.
Why is that more valid for languages than for any other subject?

Dd hates maths. She has no particular aptitude for it either. The maths teacher doesn't care; he expects her to work hard anyway.

Come to think of it, she hasn't got much time for science either and it is doubtful if it will be immediately important in her proposed career. Again, the science teacher doesn't give a monkey's.

If it brings down her grades, then that's just tough cookies.

I think there is a strong argument for regarding a foreign language (i.e. getting your head round the fact that people in other countries think and express themselves differently) as a general education subject of at least equal value to algebra or biology. It helps to make sense of the world around you, even if it is never of any immediate use in earning a living.

shoobidoo Wed 20-Mar-13 17:20:26

Agree with Cory. In fact for many people languages will be far more useful in life (work and pleasure) than History, RS or Physics, for example.

tiredaftertwo Wed 20-Mar-13 20:49:41

I agree that a language is important as part of a broad education.

I disagree that learning German or any language will be useful in science or engineering, unless you continue it to a much higher level. Have a look at the MFL syllabus and its vocab about holidays and food and the colour of your family's hair. And then read a scientific paper. Science and engineering is very international with a common language - English.

shoobidoo Wed 20-Mar-13 22:12:11

Of course GSCE German/French is only the first step to becoming fluent in a language - in no way would it be sufficient to study at a German/French/ Swiss University. But at least it is a step in the right direction - one can then build upon it by spending say 6 months working/studying in the country to become fluent.

With UK Uni fees rising and most European Unis still free, worth conisidering.

cory Fri 22-Mar-13 08:28:55

Agree with shoobidoo that GCSE languages are useful as foundations rather than the full package. Unlike languages like Mandarin or Japanese, a GCSE in French or German will actually give you enough of a background to carry on studying the language on your own with a dictionary. Dd who is in Yr 11 has taken to reading simple French books in this way. She will be not be doing French A-level, but I expect her to have reached a much higher level of French in a few years time, simply because it's become part of what she does. She is very into drama and has now realised that if she needs access to a play in French she can have that, she has the basic skills to build on.

I can't speak for scientists, but I am just off to do a specialist workshop in my own subject and one thing that strikes me, reading the preparatory material, is how hampered you are as an academic if you are cut off from research that goes on in French and German using cultures (and academics writing in French and German are by no means confined to French and German speaking countries), how insular it makes you look.

BackforGood Fri 22-Mar-13 08:41:50

An employer told me he always looks to see if an applicant has a MFL at GCSE, simply because, in his experience, that means they were in the "brighter" part of the year. The job applicants don't need their language skills for his business, but his thinking is that every school will do it's utmost to get every pupil through Eng and maths, but MFL is one that's likely to be dropped by less academic pupils. He wants people who can learn on the job, and that's his filter.
That said, my dd has just done her options choosing, and has chosen differently from what we would perhaps have hoped recommended she would. Ultimately, as other have said, if they are determined they don't want to do a certain subject, then they are probably better getting a good grade in another subject, and one GCSE here and there doesn't matter IMO if you have a fairly broad range of traditional subjects in there.

BackforGood Fri 22-Mar-13 08:45:00

Cory - my dh is a Scientist. All Sciene papers / conferences / discussion do happen in English but he has travelled to different parts of the world, and actually has to get fom the airport to the train, from the train to the hotel, greet / socialise with his hosts / go out for a meal and order in a restaurant / go to the shops / etc. whilst travelling. So a basic grasp on any / all MFLs is incredibly helpful.
Same with a friend who is an accountant / auditor for a multi national. Obviously the work itself is checking the books add up, but he has to travel and meet people in different countries. His languages have been invaluable.

bruffin Fri 22-Mar-13 09:02:20

The job applicants don't need their language skills for his business, but his thinking is that every school will do it's utmost to get every pupil through Eng and maths, but MFL is one that's likely to be dropped by less academic pupils. He wants people who can learn on the job, and that's his filter.

He is very shortsighted and probably missing out on some good candidates

It sounds like an interview my friends dd went to. She has a 1st in business at uni, but an ABC for alevels and was turned down because they don't take anyone on who has less than an ABB,

Cory - my dh is a Scientist. All Sciene papers / conferences / discussion do happen in English but he has travelled to different parts of the world, and actually has to get fom the airport to the train, from the train to the hotel, greet / socialise with his hosts / go out for a meal and order in a restaurant / go to the shops / etc. whilst travelling

MY DH is a professional engineer and wasnt allowed to take language at school as he was dyslexic (all his qualifications have been since school). He has worked all round the world and spent a lot of time working (over a year of his life when you add it all up) in Europe mainly Germany but also France/Spain and Italy without any languages at all. Had no problems getting around, talking to clients getting complicated engineering problems sorted it.

cory Fri 22-Mar-13 09:28:49

I think it depends on what kind of job you work at and to what level. My academic colleagues would probably argue that they are fine without MFLs- but reading over some of the work that gets done, it's so insular; it's like the rest of the world doesn't exist; they don't know what they're missing out on.

Am just planning for a workshop that is based on the premise that "very little is being done in this area at the present time". The truth is that masses is being done but it's being done abroad, in other languages, by people who speak 4 or 5 languages as a matter of course; we are left out of the loop in this country because we only look to the Anglo-Saxon world.

My db runs a computer business: when he travels all over the world it is to sort out specific problems on request and English is absolutely adequate for that.

For my uncle otoh who was a sales director (and a scientist from the start), general cultural knowledge, having read the same books and accessed the same operas as his clients, was a big part of what made him so successful; dinner parties, building up contacts, making people feel at ease was essential to his work.

mayanna123 Fri 22-Mar-13 12:07:56

Another one here who is bilingual and has benefitted from my languages for both professional and private/holidaying purposes. And for those languages that I don't speak - I try to learn a few phrases instead of 'expecting people to speak to me in English'.

Languages open up doors and insights into other cultures. Yes, you may get by in English but to really understand and relate to your colleagues/clients it helps enormously if you are able to speak their language.

I'm surprised how popular Spanish is becoming - it might be useful for holidays in Benidorm, but in terms of business uses I don't think it is that useful. I can't think of many businesses that might attract UK graduates - also, unemployment is very high, especially youth umemployment. German, on the other hand, is useful for anyone interested in Science, Physics or Engineering and has a lot of very succesful Automotive, Engineering and Chemical companies - also, unemployment is at a record low there.

With the increasing global competition, I think languages can help to open doors.

BackforGood Fri 22-Mar-13 13:42:01

bruffin - sorry, I should have been clearer, these weren't graduate jobs, these were jobs which people with Level2 qualifications could apply for smile
With any strategy, if you have to filter 100+ of applicants down to a shortlist of 6 or so to interview, you do have to be quite arbitary, and there's always the risk you will miss a good candidate. But I just thought it would interest the OP to know that line of thinking.
Re your dh - great. I'm glad he hasn't had any problems. Just, from my own experiences of arriving in a foriegn country on your own, I know it's a damn site easier if you can get by with a bit of basic grounding in the language, than if you haven't every studied that language.

bruffin Fri 22-Mar-13 14:54:01

That does make more sense, but if dh had taken a language which one. He would have had to have learnt german, french, italian, spanish, portuguese, dutch and turkish. These are all the non english speaking countries he has worked in.

I was bilingual until i was 9 and my nan died (she couldnt speak english). I couldn't have a conversation in greek anymore, although i do recognise some words.

Tasmania Sat 23-Mar-13 13:34:54

Re German for sciences... It becomes important at PhD level and beyond.

speedology Fri 05-Jul-13 19:57:05

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