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To wish there was not a decline in the number of children studying foreign languages

(399 Posts)
ForalltheSaints Wed 27-Feb-19 19:03:45

According to a BBC survey, a 45% drop over c20 years in the number of language GCSEs taken, with a bigger drop in French, though more taking Spanish.

Apparently because they are perceived as more difficult.

I rejoice in not being the typical Brit or American abroad expecting everyone to speak English. Should we not be more encouraging, perhaps by allowing universities if they wish to insist on one language GCSE alongside English Language and Maths as a condition of entry?

Fazackerley Wed 27-Feb-19 19:08:11

I think it's sad, however if you aren't naturally good at languages they can be torture. Two of mine limped through gcse Spanish but one loves languages and finds them easy and wants to do French Spanish and Latin GCSE but isn't allowed!

Whynotnowbaby Wed 27-Feb-19 19:11:12

I wish they were still compulsory, making them optional means there will always be options that feel easier- after all there are a lot of skills involved in learning a language but few subjects that offer quite so much in terms of immediate returns if you persevere. Having worked abroad it is very obvious that languages can be learnt well in a culture that values and supports language learning but it will never happen while we persist in saying there’s no point since everyone speaks English anyway, it’s too hard and anyway... Brexit. Yes, a lot of people do speak English but making an effort to speak the local language can do wonders for international relations and many have had more successful business and personal exchanges because they have done so.

user1471460024 Wed 27-Feb-19 19:11:31

I have never needed to use my french that I learned at school. Everywhere I went on holiday spoke English such as USA or Australia.

BusySnipingOnCallOfDuty Wed 27-Feb-19 19:14:26

I was shit at french in year seven because of the extremely strict rules to the language. Where as I can get by in french as an adult who returned back to it on her own terms. German I was miles better at but my parents had to fight to get me into the class doing german because my french wasn't good enough. It would have been spanish otherwise.

Im wondering, as my eldest is doing spanish in year seven, if its become a more popular choice because theres a lot of mainstream music using spanish.

Ive discovered this week that my youngest is doing french, in year three!

Im a polyglot now but at gcse level I was a mess, though I got my B in german. So many of us were highly intimidated by the french teachers.

OnlyFoolsnMothers Wed 27-Feb-19 19:14:26

It’s definitely something us Brits need to get better at. I’m thoroughly ashamed I can’t speak another language. I’ve learnt french on and off for 20years, touched on Spanish, have a Belgium aunt, a Belgium boss- a husband who speaks Italian and both my parents spoke other languages....but I just can’t master any.
I’m definitely going to raise my children to.

Riv Wed 27-Feb-19 19:24:55

Languages are no longer compulsory subjects in secondary schools. With the growing teacher crisis and the lack of funding schools face, many schools have cut or severely reduced their language departments. Those who have not done this tend to be employing (cheaper) less experienced teachers. This is the predicted, inevitable result of that policy. Austerity and government interference will have far reaching consequences. ... this is just one example.

Hamsternauts Wed 27-Feb-19 19:30:45

I wish I'd had my kids ten years earlier (if i was ten years older.) The school they are at offered German, Latin, French and Spanish until fairly recently. They dropped German and Latin and this year couldn't afford to run French A level. It's sad what this government are doing to schools.

Riv Wed 27-Feb-19 19:31:04

And one reason Spanish is taught more than French now because it is more useful. More people in the world now speak Spanish than French.

User6949671 Wed 27-Feb-19 19:32:01

They need to be compulsory in primary schools to foster some sort of enthusiasm, by the time it's in secondary no one's really interested unless they have a passion for it. I
It's hard enough to pick up a language anyway let alone trying to start with all the new stress of secondary school too.

WTFIsAGleepglorp Wed 27-Feb-19 19:33:17

We girls were forced to do French at school whereas the boys were given a choice of German, French and/or Spanish.

I have always resented that.

HaroldsSocalledBluetits Wed 27-Feb-19 19:35:17

It's inevitable really when for most people lessons don't start until year 7, so they've only had around 2.5 years of maybe a couple of hours a week by the time they do their options so they haven't got very far and never get into the swing of it. Also, French has pretty limited utility, German also. Spanish is much more useful.

I bet if we had languages compulsory from year 1, one of which was Spanish, we'd see a change.

Splodgetastic Wed 27-Feb-19 19:41:03

There are so many things that schools don’t teach that they ought to and so many things that schools do teach that they don’t need to (or don’t need to spend so much time and energy on), in my opinion. For example, why is tax not taught in schools when everyone has to pay it and so many people have more complex tax affairs with the gig economy? Is it necessary to spend so much time on religion when so many people are atheist or agnostic? Couldn’t we focus on basic skills like cooking, DIY, gardening and sewing rather than industrial applications (think textiles and food technology) that will not be relevant for the majority? I’d love to see more art and music too. Still, time and money are always going to be problems, I guess.

Also, isn’t it necessary to have a foreign language GCSE to go to university any more? If not, is there any reason why foreign languages could not be taught and assessed in different ways to suit different learning styles (apart from money obviously)?

Splodgetastic Wed 27-Feb-19 19:44:27

That’s a great point about lots of music being in Spanish. In my utopian school we would combine the subjects into themes, so we could have Spanish, music and dancing all in the one lesson, although I’m not sure the lyrics to many of the Reggaeton tunes would be suitable for school!

Disfordarkchocolate Wed 27-Feb-19 19:45:48

I wish they started lessons in early primary school. By the time I started lessons I was a very self-conscious teen, not ideal.

Toomanycats99 Wed 27-Feb-19 19:46:10

My DD's primary teaches Spanish from y3.

Oldest is y7 and she has managed to carry on Spanish at secondary.

They both love learning it. I think starting at age 7 they don't have the feeling of sounding like a tit when they speak it which I did only learning in secondary!

I can understand some written Spanish / French but have a complete fear over speaking it!

HaroldsSocalledBluetits Wed 27-Feb-19 19:47:15

Yes time and money come into it but it's priorities to an extent (all the other European countries prioritise learning languages in the curriculum) and also lack of staff who are able to teach a language at primary (... due to few people studying them etc, and so the circle continues).

MonaLisaDoesntSmile Wed 27-Feb-19 19:47:31

@Riv -Most of those people live in South America, how often do you go there?

It's not about the most 'popular' language, I know people speaking very rare languages and making a living out of that. The problem is that the exams are marked much harsher, so students opt for subjects where they are more likely to get a higher grade. It's been the case for years now, but exam boards know it and do nothing about it.

Toomanycats99 Wed 27-Feb-19 19:48:34


There is a school near us and other than the core subjects everything in y7-8 is taught in the form of projects. They don't have separate subjects for history art etc.

They did appear in the worst schools list for pupil progress in the recent reports though so not sure it's a good thing........

iklboo Wed 27-Feb-19 19:50:12

DS is doing French & German (Y8). He's really keen on carrying them both on if he can when he takes his options - definitely one of them if not.

HaroldsSocalledBluetits Wed 27-Feb-19 19:50:16

Re Spanish, I don't know about music so much but knowing it will get you places in not just South and Central America but it's very handy across large swathes of the USA too. That's a pretty big chunk of the world.

areyoubeingserviced Wed 27-Feb-19 19:51:35

I think languages are very useful
I have a French and Spanish tutor for my children as I really want them to learn a language

Splodgetastic Wed 27-Feb-19 19:55:25

@Toomanycats99, I think maybe projects are better for people who are less academic to start with and we don’t know what that school started off with in terms of pupil material. Mind you, I am no educational expert and I would hate to be a teacher - it sounds like a thankless and stressful job!

SmashedMug Wed 27-Feb-19 19:56:57

It's all a bit pointless nowadays though. Languages are taught too little too late here for children to develop them properly and even then children are taught to exams rather than taught to write and read and speak another language. It's all about grades and passing exams. You can end up having a piece of paper saying you've got such and such amazing grade and still be useless at actually using the language in real life because you weren't taught beyond parroting etc. I'm glad languages aren't compulsory when we don't teach them properly.

Littlemissdaredevil Wed 27-Feb-19 19:58:43

It makes me sad. I did French and German for GCSE. Plus you could also do italian. Most schools in my city only offer one language (mostly Spanish) and only the opportunity to take one at GCSE.

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