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Foreign Languages(15 Posts)
Which foreign language(s) do you think children aged 4-13 should be learning? Do you think the practice of teaching a different one each year helps or hurts pupils in learning the languages?
Realistically it will be languages where teachers of those languages can be found. I’ve heard that quite a few schools find it difficult to recruit French teachers.
Under the situation you describe, the children would learn:
French in Reception
Spanish in year 1
Italian in year 2
German in year 3
Have I got that right? I don’t know what I’d think of that - I’m only fluent in English. It depends how immersive the lessons were - one hour of languages a week will not result in a child being able to speak Mandarin. Other people may have a more informed view on that.
It sounds a nuisance for the school itself.
Not heard of learning a different language each year, is this common?
No, it didn't work like that in our secondary ... Y7 did French, then took up Spanish as well in Y8, the next year's Y7 did Spanish + German in Y8, the next Y7 did German and took up French as well in Y8. Then everyone did two GCSE languages, plus a twilight class in a third if they wanted ... local comp too. It certainly wasn't a new language every year then give it up, never learn anything that way!
This is a primary thread so are they taster languages at prep school? If so, then that’s unusual. It means a quick rush to teach one language well for GCSE.
It's probably prep schools boasting "we teach French" when they just recite a few colours.
In the early years you will find that not a lot of knowledge will stick. DD had French from Y2 and the first year they hardly did more than sing songs and learned phrases or names of animals/family but hardly enough to speak full sentences.
In Y3-6 she also had French, one hour two terms a year. In Y6 I would say she had some basic understanding but as they do not get any homework or are tested on vocabulary I doubt anything will stick.
She is now in Y7, has Spanish twice a week, homework and regular test. She has learned more in two terms than in 4 years of primary school. She will get another language in Y8. Friends of hers in a different secondary do 2 languages from Y7, seems to work as well.
DD is actually bi-lingual anyway, English/German, and we see how much input is needed to go to a good level of understanding, reading, talking. Unless they miraculously change the primary curriculum you can forget any state school giving a child a decent knowledge of language. It is a taste of that there are other ones out there but that's it.
The most commonly taught languages at primary school where I live are French (the prep schools), Spanish and Mandarin (state schools) and German (bi-lingual academy).
The two best approaches are the bilingual school and JAPS. At the bilingual school there are activities in German constantly and many native speakers as TAs so its semi-immersive. At JAPS, they have French lessons but additionally PE and music lessons are also exclusively taught in French by native speakers. With that much reinforcement I think you genuinely come out with an ability to speak and a decent accent.
Additional languages are offered at many of the state and independent schools via after school language clubs.
In my ideal world - either french or german from year 2-9 with a second MFL from year 7. 2 half hour sessions a week would probably be better than 1 hour in primary.
Realistically - it’s got to be whatever language you have the best teachers to teach/lead. No point in deciding on French if you’ve only got one teacher who has any knowledge at all of it.
My DD did a language carousel in primary including French, Mandarin, Italian and Spanish. In total she had 6 years of mandarin, 5 years of French including a week in France speaking French in shops and markets. Two each of Spanish and Italian.
By the end of primary she could hold basic conversations in French and mandarin along the lines of, hello my name is X, how are you, I enjoy playing y, please could I have an orange juice (variety of things), thank you. So can get by in a tourist situation.
Learning a language each year would not work. Even if you focus on one language, people do not quite understand how hard it is to get your child to fluent levels. It takes about 25 hours a week of the language for a child to be fluent. You could get away with less if the child is willing to study, participate and focus. But when starting young, they learn through play, repetition etc. My two children attend a bilingual school and after a few years some of the kids are not properly speaking the second language yet! And the school is taught one week in French and one week in English. My kids are fine, because we made sure they got extra exposure out of the school as well (6-9 hours a week when we do not have a live in au pair). Plus audio books, music etc.
When my children were just started at school we considered moving cities and looked at one plausible (independent) school. They prided themselves on their languages but to be honest I was horrified. IIRC it was French in Y3, something else Y4, a 3rd language Y5 and then French again in Y6. Main destinations included good local grammar schools so I guess attainment in a single foreign language at that point was of low value.
My youngest had French from reception to Y8 but wasn't a very oral/aural learner - he would have done better with a more formal style of tuition earlier, rather than not till about Y5/6. He's switched to German now ...
I've realised recently that it really doesn't matter what language primary schools teach children because they'll go to a high school where it could be useless, in the sense that children will have learned different languages to greater or lesser degrees and the high school will just start from scratch.
Also few primary schools have the resources to really teach languages well - I used to teach EFL so I have a better idea of what's really needed to learn a language properly.
On the whole, if you want your child to learn a language well, teach them yourself or get a tutor. Until the national curriculum stipulates a single MFL which must be learned, then language teaching in the UK will never be fantastic.
That’s why I specified 2 in my ‘ideal’ scenario, gallic. It would be better is primary schools weren’t able to choose from an enormous selection of languages. Secondaries could then offer a wider choice for the 2nd MFL in year 7. At the end of year 9, students could choose both languages, one or neither to continue. But even those who don’t continue a language will have had 8 years of being taught 1 language.
This is going to a fairly significant investment in MFL teachers initially.
MFL at primary age is going to be max 1hr per week, and most often taught by someone who hasn't done it beyond GCSE, if that! I was expected to teach French, having dropped it before my O levels. When I was doing my PGCE, I was placed in a school that did German. I had to teach colours with 1 day's notice. I'd never spoken a word of German before! The upshot is that most primary school MFL teaching is poor. Every secondary school therefore starts from scratch in yr7.
Some primary schools can afford a language specialist to do lessons during PPA. They will do the same language across the years.
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