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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?

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.

LittleAbruzzenBear Tue 02-Apr-13 09:42:45

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.

TolliverGroat Tue 02-Apr-13 10:53:35

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.

LittleAbruzzenBear Tue 02-Apr-13 13:04:05

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

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