News today says our children are bottom in Europe for languages ...

(93 Posts)
azulita Sat 16-Feb-13 19:38:05

I'd like to know who, if anybody, sees the value of introducing sounds in French or Spanish to pre-schoolers. French songs for kids, Spanish songs for kids - would you/do you have any at home?

agreenmouse Sun 28-Apr-13 13:09:05

This old thread talks about children and learning a foreign language. Today the news suggests gardening may be introduced to more schools, linked to caring for the world etc.etc. ... I'm a mumsnet blogger who is keen on both! Most of my posts are for dcs above pre-school age, but I thought this friendly story might just tickle one or two 3-4 year-olds ..?!

Maggie & the squirrel in French

Maggie & the squirrel in Spanish

Umlauf Fri 12-Apr-13 22:24:15

Ah thank you! I've just seen this! It's my first year so that has given me a confidence boost! grin

timeto Tue 09-Apr-13 17:50:39

Your lessons sound great Umlauf!

gabsid Tue 09-Apr-13 16:47:55

Teaching a language through content is a great idea, I did that in Austria but here in the UK it doesn't seem to occur to anyone to do that??

Just recently I spoke to a friend who has trouble encouraging MFL in one of her feeder primaries. One of the primary teachers said to her, well, Friday afternoon she has to teach Art, PSE .... and Spanish, indicating that she can't do everything. The funny thing is that you need language to teach anything, so why not use some Spanish to teach Y3 Art? And if its just counting pens and paper or classroom instructions?

The problem is though that most primary teachers have next to no MFL knowledge themselves.

NotTreadingGrapes Tue 09-Apr-13 08:49:52

CLIL is being gradually introduced into high schools here (south Italy) too.

Nothing much to add to the previous comments from English Language and MFL teachers other than to say that in recent years the most effective tool I have found for all of my students (I teach EFL/ESL/EAP and Spanish) is podcasts....I am evangelical about them, there are some amazing ones on t'web, all free. Have got my own degree level Spanish (unfortunately lost over the past 20yrs of living and speaking in Italian) back up to scratch by listening while doing other stuff. There are some great kids' ones as well. OP- you will find some even for teeny tiny students.

Umlauf Tue 09-Apr-13 08:44:36

With regards to older children, one method I have seen used to great effect is CLIL, content and language integrated learning. The focus of the lesson is the content, and the children have a need for the language to learn the content, hence they are motivated and don't realise the hard work.

Where I live in North Spain the govt has passed a law stating that children must learn some school subjects in English. It varies from school to school, but I know children who learn maths in English, or science (very helpful as if you go on to do science in later life it's all in english).

My subject is English language but I've experimented a lot with this idea, and the best lessons are the ones where the focus is the content. We learnt about the titanic and through that, the third conditional, but the kids NEEDED the third conditional so they could imagine what they would have done differently if they were various people on the titanic.

One poster mentioned immersion wrt films, TV etc. this is totally possible in the UK too, just look at the back of all your DVDs for the available languages. For younger children, you can get disney sing along songs in French and Spanish (at least, probably more) which I was obsessed with as a young child and can still remember the words to the Disney songs in foreign!

timeto Tue 09-Apr-13 08:16:48

Having a second language is a cultural advantage in life, rather like being able to play an instrument, with many other benefits.

The haves and the have-nots. Oh dear ...
The government wants to do something about this. Support from society would help.
Get celebrities involved perhaps?

Primrose123 Mon 08-Apr-13 19:54:59

I wish there was more emphasis on languages.

I did a degree in French and German and there are very few jobs that require languages where I live. I'll come and live near you Gabsid!

I was determined to teach my children a foreign language when they were little. I decided on just French as I thought two languages would be too much. We had the muzzy videos, and I took them to 'le club Français' (an hour's drive away) for years. It was ok, but they only really learnt phrases, not actually to speak French.

Their school has just dropped German. I'm so disappointed. I loved learning languages, and I hoped my children would have the same opportunities.

EldonAve Mon 08-Apr-13 19:43:15

My youngest is at nursery where they do french as an additional language

We are already OPOL at home & mine refuse to speak the "foreign" language

chocolatecrispies Mon 08-Apr-13 19:34:52

I think there are parents who want to help their children do better in languages than they did but they often keep quiet about it for fear of being thought of as pushy. We had a Spanish childminder and then a Spanish nanny so my children understand Spanish, this was deliberate on my part and we also watch DVDs in Spanish and listen to CDs. I also speak a lot of French to them and we have has a few French babysitters. I have found other people doing the same thing and it does work amazingly - although I am not a native French speaker my son aged nearly 5 can understand French native speakers and will talk in French when requires- and it has been so much more fun than French lessons were at school.

timeto Mon 08-Apr-13 08:32:44

There are some enthusiastic language teachers commenting, some of the comments sound great, but there are hardly any replies to the original question. Does that answer it?

gabsid Mon 08-Apr-13 08:02:29

Good idea!

HolaBonjour Sun 07-Apr-13 22:36:56

My sincere apologies for overstepping guidelines the other night - I'm a mumsnet novice and had no intention of breaking rules! I find this thread v interesting. I'm English, spent time living in France and Spain, returned to England to do my MFL degree and subsequently a PGCE and have 20 yrs experience teaching languages in state secondary schools and private primary too.
I would say that children absorb language happily when they are having fun, given confidence, reassurance and praise. I taught many children who had English as a second language. For them, learning a new language at the same level as the native English children gave them a chance to achieve at the same rate, something difficult for them to access in many other subject areas. I won't forget a particular child's face when she scored as highly as others in an end of unit test.
I now run a language school which provides clubs and classes and also I support primary schools and teachers. Also popular are the parent and toddler classes, and it is very much part of my ethos that parents are totally involved in the class. My lesson plans ensure that topics and activities each session include phrases for the parents to use at home with their child. All too often parents feel they can't help their child with language, so empowering both together seems common sense to me.

gabsid Fri 05-Apr-13 08:22:16

I don't think teaching methods back then were that great either. I remember having a different colour book each year with texts, exercises and vocab in the back, not even with fancy pictures and we just did chapter after chapter. Teachers weren't native. But, I did enjoy learning English and I wanted to learn because I was planning to travel. Not at age 10 or 11, but a bit later.

There was no immersion whatsoever, just some pop songs in English, for some of them I tried to write out the lyrics so I could understand better and sing along. No English TV or internet resources.

I just remember one year I did very badly in English which was due to the teacher, she kept on and on about grammar which I found boring, I switched off and subsequently didn't get it.

So, maybe the key is to be motivated and want to be able to do something rather the fanciest methods, resources and native speakers.

notamom again, you are right about teachers and teaching methods. I first had french lessons when I was 10 at middle school and I enjoyed it, got on well, but at high school, one lesson a week and an ancient (to me at the time!), dull, non-native French teacher and I didn't do so well. I took part in a French exchange and the French students were wetting themselves at some of the dire French we were coming out with, we were being taught incorrectly. Funnily enough, there were three French groups and I was in the top, how I don't know, but the bottom class were the ones who got the native French teacher, but the pupils in that class weren't interested in learning and she used to spend the class trying to control them all. Such a waste

notamomtokids Thu 04-Apr-13 21:16:05

diewilde13 and gabsid you must have had great teachers and a great method like a Dutch friend of mine. He is nearly 70, he learnt English between the ages of 12-16 and the started using it regularly 6 years ago when he met me and my partner. We dont speak Dutch so the only way we could communicate was in English. He told us that he had not really spoken English since he was a teenager and his English is brilliant considering he had not spoken it for almost 50 years.

From what I see in the part of Spain I'm in, 4 years of English, 4 hours a would get the majority of students nowhere and that is totally down to useless teaching methods and incompetent teachers.

notamomtokids Thu 04-Apr-13 21:04:30

Realityquake it is true that adults learn better than kids but I think and in my experience that is because they have something to say and can carry a conversation in class; this is often very difficult for some kids to do. As for starting at an early age, when it is all done from games and songs, it isn’t really learning for the child, it’s fun so they get this great language base without the pains of learning. Again, from experience I have seen that it is much harder, though not impossible, for older children to learn languages especially when it is compounded by mediocre teaching methods and teachers that aren't very good
.
I think as children get older the teaching becomes so much more important and I believe that the best option would be native teachers. I teach English as a foreign language because I can answer the question put to me by students, I would not be able to do that with total confidence if I were teaching Spanish as it is not my first or second language although I can speak it fluently and I definitely agree that A’level and beyond should have access to native speakers/teachers.

And yes, the importance attached to this subject is very little.

DieWilde13 Thu 04-Apr-13 17:57:59

I think the exposure to English pop culture might have acted as a motivator to learn English, but I don't think it could be considered "immersion".

I have very fond memories of made up lyrics for Abba and Boney M songs... grin

diewilde do you think it helps that a lot of popular music is in English so a lot of youngsters are immersed in the language from a young age without realising it? I think a few people only know what "Voulez vous couchez avec moi?" meant due to the Lady Marmalade song.

gabsid Thu 04-Apr-13 17:15:35

DieWilde13 - I agree, but there were about 4 hours of English or so per week if I remember right.

DieWilde13 Thu 04-Apr-13 16:38:56

I am German, too, and most Germans of my generation, in their late thirties, speak English to a decent level. None of us started learning English before secondary school (age 10/11). None of the English teachers who taught me at school were native speakers.

By year 9 English lessons were taught in English and we started reading novels and watching films.

I think as long as language learning is a key part of the curriculum and taught by qualified teachers you can start at any age!

RealityQuake Thu 04-Apr-13 13:38:51

I think a major problem with the UK mindset with learning languages is perfectionism which ruins the really good (often better).

We make sets of rules even when the myths have been dispelled and these rules are making it harder - we set it up that it has to be done very very early when research has shown than in many cases adults can learn other languages better than kids which sends the message to students learning at older ages that it is meant to be more hard for them and that they are too late, hundred times fold for teens and adults. We ignore what has shown to work over these rules and ruin the attitude which is the main important part of learning languages.

We can't seem to decide why we want to learn languages other than it's something we should and with no reason which languages. The arguments for larger languages neglect that the larger the language, most often it has more dialects that are not always understandable by each other. We seem to ignore that languages are to communicate and go for mostly grammar and the most impressive languages instead.

There are a lot of online games, online language exchanges, and tons of resources for learning languages. There are tons of ways to access native speakers these days. We Skype grandmothers in classrooms around the world to speak English, yet it's so often overlooked that we could learn the same way even as adults.

Whatalotofpiffle Thu 04-Apr-13 11:31:03

I would like to start using languages at home and at the same time improve my own basic knowledge. Nothing but the odd French greeting and a little Spanish due to a friends bilingual children at the moment. My 2.3 loves mandarin on the lingo show

Let's hope they also learn the correct use of apostrophes! oops!

gabsid Thu 04-Apr-13 10:17:34

worldgonecrazy - it seem your DD's school sees the value in learning a language and the DC will have a skill they can use, build on and appreciate.

On the other hand, I think English teachers (those who have an mfl degree and studied a year in another country) have a good standard of the language. Not necessarily perfect and probably with a bit of an accent but I think that's fine as long as they can pass on their enthusiasm and skill. For A-level and beyond a native speaker would be best though.

I even felt that my DS's Y1 teacher was very good and trying her best. She studied Spanish over the summer and then taught DC to count, say hello and some basic things. DS pronounced it well and enjoyed the sessions.

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