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Bilingual schooling - how important is it that children are taught their minority language by a native speaker?

(62 Posts)
castille Mon 11-May-09 16:48:32

DD is bilingual French-English (me English, DH French) and we live in France. She is 11 and in the bilingual section of an otherwise normal French secondary school.

This year she was taught English language, literature and civilisation in English by an American teacher recruited specifically to teach in the section, and things have been fine. But I have just found out that next year their English teacher will one of the schools "normal" English teachers, ie a French person speaking English.

I am not pleased about this. Half the point of sending her there was to be taught some of her classes in English by native speakers.

Am I making too much of this, or is it as important as I think it is?

BonsoirAnna Mon 11-May-09 16:50:14

angry for you. I think is very bad indeed.

BonsoirAnna Mon 11-May-09 16:50:31

I think this is very bad indeed.

castille Mon 11-May-09 16:54:00

Hi Anna! I had a feeling you might agree with me.

The head tried to justify it to me saying that they would have all of their history/geography classes with a native English speaking teacher, except that she will teach partly in Frenchhmm

AuldAlliance Mon 11-May-09 16:56:35

I'm afraid this is all too common.
It is really bad.
The gvmt has all these fine announcements about how everyone will be bilingual, and no desire to actually put the resources into providing halfway decent language teaching.

MrsMerryHenry Mon 11-May-09 16:58:47

It's very common. I used to teach English as a foreign language, and I often worked along non-native speakers.

Not only that, but I learned French and German at school from non-natives, and then went on to do French and Spanish at uni with native speaker teachers. I am not fluent but learned those languages well from my teachers.

I can honestly say (having learned many languages) that it's not the big deal you might think it is, especially as she'll pick up most of her English from you!! As long as the teacher's English is excellent, and the school's recruitment standards are good, I don't think you need to worry.

BonsoirAnna Mon 11-May-09 16:59:30

Hi Castille smile

I think they have to teach some of the French history course in French - both history and geography are taught in English in the three main bilingual schools in Paris, except for French history.

Having a non-native speaker teach English language and literature is really awful.

MrsMerryHenry Mon 11-May-09 16:59:55

Meant to add that some of the teachers I worked with (native speakers) were utter prats, couldn't be bothered to plan and prepare their work properly - so even with natives there's no guarantee.

AuldAlliance Mon 11-May-09 16:59:57

I'm afraid there's no guarantee the teacher's English will be excellent. sad

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:00:31

That's not very encouraging AA.

The English teachers at her school are all lovely and perfectly competent teachers I'm sure, but they all speak heavily accented English and make plenty of mistakes (DD doesn't always understand what they are saying).

BonsoirAnna Mon 11-May-09 17:06:57

If your DD's English is going to be a lot better than the teacher's, in a supposedly bilingual class, that's a big problem. How many other native speaker English children are there in the class?

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:09:19

The school doesn't recruit as such, they are sent teachers by the education department (as is the norm in the state sector in France). So although the current crop are ok, they could end up with anyone next year.

I agree that a native speaker might not be a better teacher, but at least DD will be able to understand him/her and vice versa.

MrsMerryHenry Mon 11-May-09 17:13:19

I am confused as to why you think she won't learn correct English from you? I would think she would be the person in class who would be constantly correcting her teacher, much to their chagrin.

I appreciate your concern with regard to literature, but surely her use of English language should be second to none in her class.

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:14:17

Oh yes Anna I agree, which is mostly why I'm so cross. She writes down mistakes and mispronounciations she hears from the francophone teachers to tell me (she thinks they are funny) and is evidently better at English than all of them!

In her class their are 4 other native speakers.

At the moment they have one American and one French teacher for history + geog, who each teach in their own language, which is how I believed it was supposed to be for the whole programme.

AuldAlliance Mon 11-May-09 17:19:38

Sorry, Castille.
I am in charge of the CAPES course in my university, so it was a heartfelt remark. I really wish I could be more positive about the level of spoken English amongst teachers, but until staff-student ratios at university are better (i.e. never if the current reforms are implemented), a year abroad is a formal requirement for language students and other prolonged stays abroad are obligatory for teachers, there's little hope. With the masterisation reform, spoken English will get worse in classrooms, not better.
13 wks of striking isn't having much impact, though, is it...

Being good at English herself is not enough if her teacher speaks poor English.

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:20:24

Yes MrsMH this is why I wondered how much it mattered that she had French-speaking teachers at school.

The thing is she speaks mostly French at home (DH and I speak to each other in French so it is the majority language at home too) so I had hoped school would be a second source of native speaking. English is her weaker language now.

She wouldn't correct teachers, she wouldn't dare!

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:22:46

AA - I am shock that there is no year (or more) abroad requirement for future language teachers! I knew it wasn't compulsory for degree students, but teachers! No wonder they all have such thick accents.

MrsMerryHenry Mon 11-May-09 17:24:33

Bless her. If you're really worried why don't you just talk to the teachers about it. Although it's not easy, the best thing is to go to her teachers first. They might actually appreciate knowing that they need to develop their professional skill, you never know.

Apart from that why don't you just up the ante with English at home? Would your DH enjoy practising it? Since it's an easy and free option it's what I would do in your position.

AuldAlliance Mon 11-May-09 17:27:33

To sit the current CAPES, you only have to have a Licence (not even in the subject you intend to teach, though obv it is hard to pass in a subject you don't have a high level in). No other requirement, apart from admin ones (European nationality, I think still, no criminal record, etc.).
The new version of the CAPES Monsieur Darcos is so determined to push through doesn't even stipulate that there should be an oral in English for those hoping to be English teachers. And anyway it's clear that the CAPES will no longer be resuired, as there will be hordes of students with the new Master who can be recruited far cheaper.
Hence my pessimistic view of the future.

AuldAlliance Mon 11-May-09 17:28:04

required, I mean. One-handed typing due to BF...

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:31:03

I've tried talking to the school. We've had meetings about this and other contentious issues related to the bilingual section with other anglophone parents, the head, and the entire English dept, to make our feelings known, but they say this is "the best use of their resources".

She already has extra English at home with a British student, which is fab, but not enough to fill the gap if school doesn't meet expectations.

DH won't speak English at home. He understands it so I still use it when talking to the children in his presence, but it makes for unnatural conversations and he doesn't want to impose his dodgy accent on the childrenwink

BonsoirAnna Mon 11-May-09 17:32:01

On a more positive note, the English teachers at my DSSs' state collège in Neuilly, while all French nationals, are very good teachers indeed and the DSSs are very enthusiastic about them both as pédagogues and as people.

Though of course I would not be at all happy were I to find them teaching my DD in a bilingual school further down the line.

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:33:55

AA angry

Not even an oral! That is worse than outrageous. In what way is this supposed to be an improvement? What is Mr Darcos trying to achieve?

castille Mon 11-May-09 17:39:50

I would imagine, Anna, that your DSSs' collège is a very desirable choice for teachers so they get lots of experienced and talented ones?

Whereas my DD's collège is not in any way recherché, so although there are a couple of dedicated old-timers, the new ones are fresh out of university and potentially not so good...sad

BonsoirAnna Mon 11-May-09 17:43:25

There is some truth in what you say, Castille. Though the English teachers seem to be better as a group than the other teachers - more open-minded than other teachers and pleasingly observant of their pupils. My (very tight!) DSS1 clubbed together with a friend to buy his much loved English teacher an iPod touch at the end of last year smile.

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