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?

Saxie Sat 16-Feb-13 19:41:06

My sons nursery has a weekly French lesson which he loves. I'd be interested in mandarin for both of us if it was local. He's at the"sponge" stage and its a shame to miss the opportunity.

azulita Sat 16-Feb-13 19:58:22

That's great, but it's at 'school'. Do you ever do any extra at home? And what about those who have nothing at nursery? Does anybody think parents need to change their mindset about languages, or is it just up to schools to address the problem?

azulita Sat 16-Feb-13 21:59:26

I've just seen there is another thread about starting up a bilingual nursery school. My question is different - I want to know what parents are happy to do at home. I really do not believe in hothousing, but as Saxie says, young children are such sponges, and what happens at home makes such a difference. I'm interested to know whether English parents value learning a foreign language enough to bring it into their homes.

I suppose the answer is that it depends a lot on whether they learnt a second language themselves ..

By the way, I'm not a languages fanatic at all - I just think it would be good if we could all have a second language in addition to, not instead of, all our other skills!

Re the BBC - I think there is a bit of progress there ... Has anybody noticed that presenters seem to be making a real effort to pronounce foreign words correctly? It might just be me, but I have noticed quite a difference in the last year or so.

TreadOnTheCracks Sat 16-Feb-13 22:09:40

my dc had French at nursery from 4 and attend French club at school. We have a couple of french DVDs.

I don't speak French so feel very limited about what I can do at home. I beleive it will be easier if they are introduced to the sounds early. French club is quite expensive so I hope so!

BackforGood Sun 17-Feb-13 17:34:56

Where I work, there are huge amounts of bi (and even tri) lingual children, and I think it's a fantastic skill to have, but they are able to learn it because they speak one (or two) languages at home all the time and then English at Nursery / Pre-school / Playgroup, and on TV. You are not going to learn another language by listening to a few recorded songs alone.

notcitrus Sun 17-Feb-13 18:30:41

It would help if we could easily get foreign TV channels, especially on Freeview.
I once asked Sky how much it would cost to get say German ZDF or Sat-1 and a couple French channels.

Aoparently the only way was to pay for the standard package, and the basic sports package, and the basic movie package, and then the more random channels, then the extra sports, the extra movies, and fibally the ultimate bunch of obscure channels. And pay about £80 a month.

I declined. I know people who get their own sat dish and install it themselves and manage to tune in foreign channels, but that's not exactly simple.

Ds does French at nursery. I know the basics but my pronounciation is terrible. I teach him the odd German phrase, but no Spanish beyond the Lingo Show.

CunfuddledAlways Sun 17-Feb-13 18:45:35

i can speak barely asnything else in any other languages so their would be no point me trying to teach my kids as the pronouciation would be wrong etc, think things like polish/russian would be most useful to them in the area we live but they may pick some of it up anyway <not really bothered emotion>

happily3 Mon 18-Feb-13 13:37:48

If nothing else songs could help develop a decent accent early on?

TreadOnTheCracks Mon 18-Feb-13 13:40:49

To hear a native speaker is best isn't it? We were lucky that we had a native french lady do lessons at dc's nursery school, we have a retired french teacher ( she's English) at after school french club.

happily3 Tue 19-Feb-13 08:30:19

A good teacher is key, surely. A native speaker might be excellent, or might not.

DS1 has been learning Spanish at school since he was in Reception, and alongside that my family and I have been conversing with him in Spanish- we have Spanish family which helps us. At school DS gets 5-10 minutes a week which isn't enough to cover pronunciation let alone helps them converse!

Greythorne Tue 19-Feb-13 08:51:21

Songs and nursery rhymes in an additional language for an hour of week is a pointless waste of time.I

happily3 Tue 19-Feb-13 10:30:06

It might not be if it helps young kids to hear and pronounce the sounds? I seem to remember some research a few years back about babies over a certain age no longer reacting to sounds they hadn't already been exposed to ..

Startail Tue 19-Feb-13 10:55:09

I think we need to concentrate on getting languages in to primaries and taught far better at secondary before we worry about nurseries.

My DDs did French club at primary, but one lesson a week is nothing like enough, a few games at nursery certainly aren't enough.

They need practice and given language teaching in Britain has been dire for as long as anyone can remember, parents don't have the skills to help. Practice has to be school based and that means MFL has to be part of The KS2 curriculum, not a paid for lunch time club.

TreadOnTheCracks Tue 19-Feb-13 15:02:12

Any improvements would be welcome here. I was led to believe as I signed the cheque for nursery school French lessons that early on is best and a native speaker will have the best pronounciation.

notamomtokids Thu 28-Feb-13 18:54:56

I have just commented on another thread about this. This is my 'thing'; I teach English to Spanish children.

At the moment there is a huge emphasis in Europe to learn English and historically people from the UK have not really had much need to learn another language, much less so now that all of Europe is learning it, but having a second or third language is a great skill to have.

I would wholly recommend it, but I do believe this is something parents have to take control of and not rely on schools. It is also something that I believe needs to start at a very early age.

Finding cartoon in a foreign language is a great way to do it but it has to be done on a daily basis. 15 minutes daily is ok because exposure to the language is what's important.

gabsid Wed 13-Mar-13 11:46:51

I think we need to find time for languages and recognise that it is a long term process to learn a language to a decent standard.

One short session of French a week in preschool together with a bit of Spanish in Reception and teaching a few German phrases at home seems rather pointless to me.

The reason other nationals are better at languages is that they spend about 4 hours per week learning English to start with in primary school now, its seen as important, and on top of that there is another couple of hours French or whatever else.

At the moment, here DC get a patchy bit of everything in primary and then try to learn 2 languages in half the time of some European children.

gabsid Wed 13-Mar-13 11:49:31

The result is that they think languages are hard, boring and pointless, which I can understand as they aren't really good enough to use any language to converse or read.

happily3 Wed 13-Mar-13 13:42:48

I agree gabsid. We need to start earlier. I'm trying to do my bit, in a tiny way, by offering free 'French and Spanish listening for children' online. I've had a good response from teachers, but almost none from parents so far - such a shame as I'd like to reach out to those not being taught much at school.

MGMidget Thu 14-Mar-13 22:29:09

I am all for learning languages early. DS started at 2.5 with a CD of French songs and when it was apparent he was interested and picking it up we enrolled him in a weekly toddlers' French class and booked ad hoc babysitting with a French lady who spoke some French with him. Now he's 5 he can understand simple conversations in French ( replies in English mostly but I am told this is a normal development stage). When he speaks French he sounds French to French people so they tell me. I don't think older children can pick up the accent so successfully. I have read that children learn the accent best if they start learning a language before the age of 3.

Idratherbemuckingout Thu 21-Mar-13 09:11:47

You need a french teacher in school doing several hours a day minimum only speaking french to the children from an early age. THEN it would work.
Having lived in France I know that English children pick up a language through immersion incredibly quickly.
My son did. Child minder pre school one or two days a week as a toddler, then ecole maternelle from age 2 and a half and full time school by the time he was four. Totally bilingual with possible zero input from parents (although I am bilingual too so that does help as he can't say stuff behind my back that I won't understand).
Back in the UK now, he's taking his french GCSE next term in Year 7.
Immersion is the answer - maybe a full day a week, or several hours a day. We need to recruit french graduates into the primary classroom.
My daughter is a Reception teacher but is not allowed to use her french degree on the children as she is so busy teaching the holy National Curriculum to them. What a waste of her possible input. That's the time to start.

happily3 Thu 21-Mar-13 13:56:28

I had the fantastic advantage of an early start in three languages, and so did two of my dcs. They both ended up at Cambridge (not doing modern languages by the way) so a bilingual start certainly didn't hold them back ..

RiversideMum Sun 24-Mar-13 08:32:53

I teach reception and we do plenty of work in other languages. The children are interested that some of them speak other languages at home and we always do stuff like learning to answer the register or count to 10 in various languages.

I do think that language teaching in primary is somewhat cobbled together. It really is an area where it's impossible for teachers to "read up" on to teach and yet that is what they are being expected to do in many cases. I think we need specialist language teachers in primary.

gabsid Wed 27-Mar-13 11:47:01

This threat has been going for a while and judging by the number of posts it is all to obvious that languages are considered pointless in this country.

I have just googled language jobs in my area (German and French) and there are quite a few, a lot more than 10 years ago, however, a good standard of the language is always required and usually some sort of specialism, e.g. engineering. Those jobs had next to no applicants - and those who apply will probably be foreign nationals - its a sad state of affairs!

notamomtokids Wed 27-Mar-13 19:22:13

gabsid I think you may be right unfortunately. From my tiny bit of experience and in Spain in particular, there is such an emphasis on learning English, so it is almost redundant for Brits to learn another language to communicate with people on the continent. Infact, it is quite difficult for me to speak with people in Spanish if they have some knowledge of English because they just want to speak English.

So, yes, the foreign nationals will probably get the jobs you speak of because they have the skills that we are not developing.

I read something the other day, some comment where the person was laughing at people like me that attach importance to language learning. It is not essential that Brits learn foreign languages, but I believe we are doing ourselves a disservice by not, albeit to ask for a beer.

gabsid Sun 31-Mar-13 08:41:32

notamomtokids - I have exactly had this experience in Spain, e.g. trying to rent a car the clerk just kept speaking English to me (I am not even British!), I kept answering in Spanish until I asked his colleague if he could please fill up my water bottle because my DC were very thursty, in Spanish - only then he switched languages. Very annoying!

Also, last week I looked for jobs with languages in my area and to my surprise there were quite a few, German and French, a number of sales positions and others which needed an additional skill, e.g. engineering. However, GCSE will not be suffiencient for those jobs, therefore they will proberbly go to foreign nationals living in the UK. I do find it a bit embarassing that there are no linguists to fill such jobs here.

gabsid Sun 31-Mar-13 08:43:59

Also, look at the number of responses there are to languages threats, not many, this indicates to me that languages learning is generally seen as pointless.

notamomtokids Sun 31-Mar-13 19:51:47

gabsid I teach English in Spain (I'm British) so I see it as a bit of a responsibility to speak to the English learners in English; it's not really helping with my Spanish!!!

I see language learning as something quite important. When I came to Spain, I couldn't speak Spanish and it was a major problem for me. I couldn't go anywhere without my partner incase I had to speak to someone.

For personal growth I think it is incredible, but this is not always a priority with people and with the push for English in Europe this makes it even less of a priority. A uni student told me that many companies were not interested in interviewing candidates if they did not have a basic level of English. Also, I have seen a huge difference in the last 5 years with the level and the amount of people learning English.

What I see as a problem is that although the government is planning on making many changes with languages on the curriculum and pushing to make it a subject that people will take more seriously, only a small percentage will learn a language properly from the classroom alone. There is a lot of pressure on language teachers, but from what I have seen here the people that tend to have a good level of English normally have extra classes.

I believe the topic of language learning has to be looked at from a completely new perspective and be 'marketed' not simply as another school subject, but something that can offer much more than improved job prospects, otherwise the lost opportunities that I experienced at school, along with many others, will only be repeated.

Sorry the reply is a bit long, this is a subject close to my heart.

creameggs Mon 01-Apr-13 11:08:31

I have really enjoyed singing along to a children's cd in French and Spanish with my dcs. Of course it's only a start but it has even helped me(!) to feel less tongue-tied in those languages!

mrz Mon 01-Apr-13 11:22:41

I would be happy if those children for whom English is NOT a second language arrived at school able to talk in English.

gabsid Mon 01-Apr-13 23:41:05

mrz - that's a completely different topic though.

gabsid Mon 01-Apr-13 23:45:10

It does annoy me a bit though. Everyone who comes here is expected to speak English, is expected to learn it quick and most do I expect, however, on the other hand achieving reasonable fluency in another language is not expected or seems too much bother for the British.

SprinkleLiberally Mon 01-Apr-13 23:48:10

I don't think that people aren't interested necessarily. The question of what language to learn is a big one. Learn Spanish? You'll still end up speaking English in Germany or France or Italy. Whilst our own language is more genuinely useful, languages will never be a priority, in determining funding or time allocation.

MmeLindor Mon 01-Apr-13 23:50:01

I would challenge the 'sponge' idea.

Children are not little sponges who learn languages easily. It takes work and effort.

Yes, it is easier for them to learn when they are young but at a certain stage they do have to work hard at the second language.

I agree though that an hour or two a week is not the answer. Children in other countries start learning English from a young age, and then build on that by adding other languages later.

I am in Scotland and our DC start with French lessons at age 10yo - some years they do German. The teacher doesn't actually speak French, she just teaches some phrases. DD has complained that the children are learning to pronounce words incorrectly.

Saying that, when we were in Switzerland, I had to correct the homework that the teacher set in German as there were spelling mistakes in the questions. It is not just UK where this is a problem.

I think that we would have to decide on a first language to learn, then when a second would be added. So that if a child changes schools, they can still build on the languages that they have already learned.

gabsid Mon 01-Apr-13 23:58:43

Learning a language is not just about communicating with a different code, its also about understanding a people, a culture and getting to know and love a different way of life. I bet if you learned French you would choose to visit France more and if you chose Spanish you would go there. Either way, both countries are great, so is it really such an imortant decision which language to choose? As long as you don't try to learn 2 or 3 at once.

SprinkleLiberally Tue 02-Apr-13 00:19:23

Yes. I agree and I like learning for fun. I speak ok French, but hate the fact that I still look like a stereotypical lazy Brit in other places. If a second language, like English for many, is genuinely useful around the world, then the motivation to put time and money into language learning will be much greater.

mrz Tue 02-Apr-13 07:35:02

Is it another topic gabsid? If some children arrive in school unable to speak in their own language how will introducing them to a foreign language be useful?

and why do people automatically think of French ...

gabsid Tue 02-Apr-13 09:30:05

mrz - oh, I thought you are talking about foreigners coming to the UK.

Well, DC not learning to speak their first language would be a problem and a priority, but these are in the minority I believe (hope). In some schools it might certainly not seem that way. I don't think the problem is restricted to English speakers, I think you will find similar pockets of society in most other countries, I assume.

Still another topic though.

I think languages should start from the age of three (at school, but as soon as they are ready at home). Once you are bi-lingual then it is easier to learn other languages. I am helping DS1 (4) learn Italian (along with DH and myself) because we spend six weeks a year out there and as soon as DS2 is old enough will do the same. DS1 already has fab pronunciation, better than DH anyway. grin

gabsid you have hit the nail on the head. Our schools need to take languages seriously like schools in other countries. Once a week is not enough and starting sooner, rather than later. Some children never holiday abroad and are not used to hearing other languages, especially if they live rurally, so we need to give them a chance. It would help our DCs in a competitive world if they could speak more than pigeon in French.

mrz Tue 02-Apr-13 09:47:47

Unfortunately gabsid teachers are reporting a huge increase in young children arriving at school or nursery unable to speak in their own language. In some areas they are very much the majority of pupils.

mrz Tue 02-Apr-13 10:01:09

"In areas of high social deprivation the percentage of children with difficulties is considerably higher than this. More than half of children starting nursery school in socially deprived areas of England have delayed language - while their general cognitive abilities are in the average range for their age, their language skills are well behind."

mrz Tue 02-Apr-13 10:04:18

Sorry the first part of the quote vanished

"Language and communication difficulties represent a substantial problem in the community. Nationally, one in six children have difficulty in learning to talk and understand, according to a 2009 You Gov poll of parents of children aged 1-7; amongst boys this figure is 22%. 7% of five year olds nationally – on average two or three in every classroom – have difficulty in speech and language."

In my class a quarter have some degree of language delay

weegiemum Tue 02-Apr-13 10:05:40

My dc are bilingual in English/Gaelic. Dh and I don't speak Gaelic (though my Spanish is fairly fluent) but dc did play group, nursery and now school bilingually.

I'm not fussed about which language - Gaelic is available in Scotland, as Welsh is in Wales, so we jumped at the chance. The benefits of bilingualism are massive.

gabsid Tue 02-Apr-13 10:07:09

It takes time and effort to learn a language, you gain so much, e.g. the love of the culture and language of another country, respect and empathy for people who think and behave in a different way, you become more accepting of people who are different ... and of course you may improve your job prospects, may want to work abroad for a while, travel ...

Unfortunately, in primary the resources are not there, e.g. teachers who can teach a language, and in secondary most learn 2 languages, but none of them to any reasonable standard. It would put me of to learn the basics of 2 languages at the same time. I find learning the basics of a language is the most boring stage, it gets more interesting when you can chat, read, watch TV programmes.

It would be more purposeful if they got the basics in primary and then had 4 hours of MFL lessons per week learning 1 language, then we might see more people enthusastic about MFL.

gabsid Tue 02-Apr-13 10:16:30

My DC are bilingual, German and English. We live in the UK, I speak German to DC and they speak German to each other. DH still doesn't speak it.

It doesn't just happen though, I am consequent with OPOL (one parent one language), I find them German speaking DC to play with, I get them books, I find them German TV programmes to watch ... and speak to them in a manner that they can expand and improve their language skills.

DS is in Y3, has always gone to school in the UK, he is an average achiever, but very lazy and he says that he prefers German because he understands it better and that he always thinks in German, even in school. His Y3 teacher didn't even know he was bilingual. I think that should have passed on from infant school?

gabsid Tue 02-Apr-13 10:19:00

In case of bilingual DC, e.g. DS that's almost 8 years of intensive language teaching, every day - just think about it! It doesn't just happen easily.

I don't think it's about what "parents are happy to do at home". If you aren't a native speaker of another modern language or at the very least speak one near-fluently then you aren't going to be able to convey it to your children. You won't have the right accent, and you won't be able to use it at a child-appropriate level.

Children in other countries don't learn languages to a high standard because their parents are reciting nursery rhymes to them at home; they do it because language teaching is taken seriously and there's motivation to learn at the cultural level.

I agree it's a cultural thing. If I had a pound for every English person who has said 'well they speak English so there's no point'.....arrghhhh!

If you have never been abroad as a child, or had parents interested in other cultures/countries then it rubs off, apart from a few people that escape that mindset like my DH. My parents took my brothers and I to France, Germany, Holland and Belgium and my Father would insist we learn at least the basics wherever we went. At middle school my friends thought my family were odd because we didn't holiday in the UK, Disney or Majorca. I still have so called educated friends with money who won't holiday somewhere they can't speak English. We need to change attitudes.

chicaguapa Tue 02-Apr-13 13:33:36

I speak 3 foreign languages and have always wanted DC (11 & 8) to be able to speak another language. It's hard finding access to foreign language learning though and it's not a simple case of DC not wanting to learn them.

DC have been exposed to a mixture of language classes, Muzzy, Dora, me speaking the odd phrase since pre-school. They do 20 minutes a week at school which doesn't engage them at all. We encourage them to speak in another language when abroad though and teach them phrases to learn, so they understand the need for MFL learning and are confident to use it when needed.

In comparison, our Spanish friends have DC the same ages and both can speak English now. envy But they get to watch original version films, have access to games that teach them English and have much more exposure to English than my DC get to Spanish or French.

But I hope that when DC start secondary school, they'll have acquired a love for MFL and with access to more substantial teaching, they'll learn to speak it well. They both certainly have an aptitude for it but despite my having the best will in the world, they've missed the boat to be bilingual.

There is a definite disadvantage for being a native speaker of the Lingua Franca. I'd love there to be better MFL provision from pre-school and I know there is a shortage of MFL teachers at primary level. I did my OU degree to become exactly that and being employed by a consortium of schools to provide MFL teaching for KS1 and KS2. But DH is a teacher and I've been firmly put off teaching for life. hmm

creameggs Tue 02-Apr-13 13:42:16

The comments about English children arriving at nursery with poor English do tie in with ideas about learning a foreign language, AND with the question about what parents are 'happy to do at home'.

If only every newborn baby could have one to one love and attention from somebody well-educated and emotionally intelligent who would talk to them, play with them, sing to them, look and smile at them ...

I have great admiration for those trying to help deprived children, but for many people, giving up on language learning right from the start is very defeatist.

Listening/singing to a few foreign language songs at home with a young child is not much more challenging to the child than songs in English - which are also really worthwhile in so many ways. It's about the parent/carer making the effort to find a cd and being willing to have a go AND not making a big deal about it - maybe putting it on in the background and singing along when the tune appeals for example.

I agree with all the cultural points above too!

I have an i-pad app for Italian, which DS1 views as a game and that helps enormously.

notamomtokids Tue 02-Apr-13 15:38:11

gabsid I think you may have resurrected this thread!!!!

I personally believe that children should start as soon as possible. I have a class of students some of whom have just celebrated their 2nd birthdays and others their 3rd. We have been working together for six months and it amazes me what they pick up. The better 'learners' in the group are the students that I see Mon-Fri and already they show signs of being bilingual. In fact there is one child who can identifiy things in English, but yet has to learn what they are in Spanish.

In Spain there is a huge emphasis on language learning, in particular English, but when it comes to French, I think the same issue exists here as it does in Britain; it's not taken seriously and it is learnt in order to pass an exam and little more.

I also personally think, and this is from experience and looking into the issue for the last 6 years, that language learning for the majority cannot be learnt in the school environment alone. It has to be done in the home too, possibly more in the home than at school and I believe parents should take control of this and not rely on the language teachers to teach their child a new language.

notamomtokids Tue 02-Apr-13 15:41:26

That last message was not meant to be controversial but I say it because a few hours a week is not enough. I have other students who were attending a bilingual school and had at least 12 hours of English p/w. Their English is very good, but not the level I want it to be; I want them to speak English like I do and not like a Spaniard that has learnt English.

DieWilde13 Tue 02-Apr-13 15:54:00

It would help if language learning was seen as a serious subject!

I don't have any experience with secondary school yet, but our primary has so far switched from teaching French to teaching Spanish and back to teaching French.

DCs teachers are not qualified to teach either language. Dd's teacher last year (when they did Spanish) even admitted that she only did French to GCSE level, and her Spanish was "non-existant, just enough to teach Y3". Hmmm.

notamomtokids Tue 02-Apr-13 15:59:06

I'm posting smallish messages otherwise my one message will read like a dissertation!!!

I read a thread the other day about someone who had a grade 5 in piano and wanted to see if they were good enough to be employed, thus asked the question on the forum and a lot of people said, 'no.' Many people stated that they would want someone who is grade 8 and beyond.

I imagine the same will apply to language learning. I cannot speak for teachers in Britain, but I am not happy with the level of English that Spanish-English teachers have. Some are very good, but others are below average. Bearing in mind I have not met EVERY Spanish teacher that teaches English.

Also, a lot of English learning is done outside the classroom in 'English academies' like mine. I substitute the parent with the extra curricular English learning. The only reason the parents don't do it is because they do not know it. This works and I cannot say I know many people here who have learnt another language just from school learning, although there will be some.

notamomtokids Tue 02-Apr-13 16:03:05


I totally agree with you. I think this attitude needs to change before anything else.

gabsid Tue 02-Apr-13 17:57:13

DS started Junior School last September and they were meant to learn Spanish. When I asked DS's teacher, she admitted to not speaking Spanish and not liking to teach it, the same I have heard from other teachers at the school - this annoys and upsets me as we are a bilingual family (German, English) and I am have taught my DS some Spanish basics and DS used his Spanish when in Spain. And the message that school gives is that MFL is pointless and boring - I feel like complaining.

Well the Government want us all out at work and competitive so it has to start with education improvement in state schools and languages being taken seriously. I think the teachers should come from the country of the language being taught, I mean we are in the EU so it makes sense. Languages should start at Reception (French or Spanish). Whilst most MP's children attend private schools I cannot see things improving though. They want the plebs kept in all the shitty jobs. In the meantime, I am going to help my children to the best of my ability.

gabsid Wed 03-Apr-13 19:39:38

Why just French or Spanish? Germany is the strongest economy in Europe.

mrz Wed 03-Apr-13 19:52:35

German doesn't make it into the top ten of world's most spoken languages, French sneaks in at number ten whereas Spanish comes fourth

gabsid Wed 03-Apr-13 20:00:16

Oh, so why not learn no 1 and 2? Or learn one of the languages that are geographically closer or have economic importance. One could argue.

mrz Wed 03-Apr-13 20:32:28

Number 1 is Mandarin which given China's rise as a global economic player would make sense and number 2 ............. is English

Charleyandviola Wed 03-Apr-13 21:43:09

Hi, I'm thinking of starting an Italian parent and baby group in South East London, and wondered if there would be much interest in such a class? It would initially be aimed at 0-18 months, with lots of fun songs and activities to improve or start learning Italian. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

HolaBonjour Wed 03-Apr-13 22:56:23

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

charlotteviola Thu 04-Apr-13 09:24:36

Hi, I'm thinking of starting an Italian parent and baby group in South East London, and wondered if there would be much interest in such a class?

It would initially be aimed at 0-18 months, with lots of fun songs and activities to improve or start learning Italian.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

worldgonecrazy Thu 04-Apr-13 09:39:55

DD's school teach French and German before they teach reading and writing, and there is a native Spanish teacher who teaches songs, etc. to provide a foundation in that language. The older children get the opportunity to go to Germany for a school term to help embed the language skills. The older children do have good language skills, helped by having teachers who are teaching their mother-tongue.

Conversley my granddaughter's "learned" French at school, and though she was in the top set, her pronunciation was so bad that it was unintelligible. That is the downside of having English teachers teaching a foreign language.

We need more language teachers who are teaching their mother tongue - as happens abroad where children learn English from English ex-pats, and via music/TV programmes.

gabsid or German or Italian are good too!

charlotte that is something I would go to if we had any such thing locally. I'm sure in London it would do well. I live in the East of England where it is hard to find good language lessons for adults, let alone children.

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.

worldgonecrazy Thu 04-Apr-13 11:25:19

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

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

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.

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!

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.

worldgonecrazy Thu 04-Apr-13 17:39:54

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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 Mon 08-Apr-13 08:02:29

Good idea!

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?

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.

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

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.

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?

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!

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.

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.

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

Your lessons sound great Umlauf!

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

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

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