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Benefits of languages

(24 Posts)
AnythingNotEverything Thu 11-Jul-13 10:45:12

Really interesting article on the Telegraph about the benefits of language learning here:

(Sorry can't link from phone!)

I did a language degree and two languages to a levels, and am forever spouting on about how brilliant it was for my wider skill set. I honestly believe I'm a better communicator in my native tongue because of the other languages I've learnt.

Just though I'd share - I'd love modern foreign languages to be compulsory at GCSE so this is right up my street!

busymummy3 Thu 11-Jul-13 20:39:19

Could I be really mosey and ask what languages you studied and what career you progressed into ?
My DD studied French and Spanish for Gcse and is predicted A* in both .
She plans to definitely study French at A level along with History and Government and Politics. Her fourth choice was going to be English Literature but has had a change of mind and is trying to decide between Maths and Spanish .
Has been at a taster day and at the moment Spanish is favoured so your post is timely !
If she goes with Spanish she will be the only student studying two languages at A level.
Her school is a language specialist as well as Technology.

busymummy3 Thu 11-Jul-13 20:39:43


RNJ3007 Thu 11-Jul-13 20:46:22

I'm and MFL teacher, so I may be biased, but it is true!

I have a degree in French and German, GCSE Latin and found that my skills in other areas benefitted. I worked in computer game localisation before becoming a teacher, and it was an amazing experience in which I learned an awful lot.

I find that those who do study and apply themselves to languages tend towards better mother tongue communication and often have a wider understanding of culture and history.

kritur Thu 11-Jul-13 22:39:24

I have a PhD in chemistry but credit my A levels in French and history for giving me communication skills that many of my colleagues struggle with. I think languages and sciences are a great mix, they're basically about rules and exceptions to rules.

AnythingNotEverything Thu 11-Jul-13 22:49:11

Oh bugger. I wrote a really long and clear reply, and it has disappeared!

Anyway ... I did French and German at a level, then a degree in politics with German. I could do a full German degree as I already had my first DC by then.

I have a fully fledged career in public sector funding development/project management. This involves writing (and more writing!), negotiation, analysis of complex text and info from all sorts of sources, and communication with a variety of audiences. I've never used my languages directly in a job, but I use the skills I learned from studying languages every day.

I'd suggest your daughter did both languages - they tend to open doors rather than close them.

KarenIsabella Fri 12-Jul-13 11:41:23

I agree! Languages are essential, I speak 3 and my daughter of 3 speaks English, Spanish and French fluently. In an ever global community languages are key to being successful as well as being able to get on with people and having a deep knowledge of one particular subject.

Moominmammacat Fri 12-Jul-13 13:01:25

I think universities like them. One of my DSs has v. average GCSE grades overall but they include three languages at A* ... and he got offers from better universities than we would have expected because he had studied "proper" subjects.

chicaguapa Fri 12-Jul-13 13:28:25

I speak 3 foreign languages; French, Spanish and Italian, and studied modern languages & linguistics at degree level.

One of the things we covered in my degree was that there are now more people in the world who speak English as a second language than those who are native speakers. Being a native English speaker no longer gives you the advantage and you are competing in an international market with people who speak a minumum of 2 languages, including English. So now there's even more reason to add another one to your bow. In a climate now where graduate positions are 80-1, I think it's so important to have a language on your CV.

I am absolutely passionate about MFL and despair of the poor attitude we have as a nation towards it. I have tried since DC (11 & 8) were born to get them language tuition, but everything has been really poor. We had Muzzy, children's books sent from friends in France and Spain, various after school clubs, Saturday classes but still neither of them has any kind of attainment because the classes haven't been consistent enough. In comparison, our Spanish friends' DS, who is also 11, now speaks English. envy

Instead I have made them comfortable with speaking in another language and I often come out with something forrin at random moments. (We had an unrehearsed but very pretentious moment outside school one morning Me: arrivederci i mei bambini, DD: adios mama, DS: au revoir maman grin) They are also encouraged to speak it when we are abroad and witness us interacting with the locals in their language. So I hope overall with this positive image and what we have been told is an aptitude for MFL, they've had a better start than most. I can't wait for DD to start proper language learning in Y7.

I can't decide though whether speaking other languages has helped my communication skills or if it's a linguisitc ability that means I have good communication skills and can speak 3 languages. Chicken and egg I suppose. confused

AnythingNotEverything Fri 12-Jul-13 13:43:43

It may be chicken and egg, but the existence of a chicken proves the existence of the egg and vice versa ie the qualification shows you have the skills - however you learn them.

teabagpleb Fri 12-Jul-13 14:26:14

I agree, and wish it was easier for kids to learn languages here - ds is one of the few monolinguals he knows. I did German to A-level but every time I tried to move there so I could move from 'able to deal with almost any situation, read books and papers slowly, watch soaps' to proper fluency, it got scuppered. I did get work to pay for a tutor for a while until they noticed I wasn't making use of it!

It comes in handy for reading rules of board games (most board games are published first in Germany, and the first translations into English are often ropey 'muss nicht' as 'must not' ...), ordering stuff off German eBay sellers, reading the only decent book in the library of a rural Welsh hotel, and of course the odd visit to Germany.

But mostly for making me patient with all the people I meet who don't speak great English, because I really know how hard it is to learn another language, rather than just thinking it can't be difficult if small children can do it.

I'm really annoyed that I have about 100 free TV channels, all but 2 in English (al-Jazeera and I think an Urdu one), and while I could pay £10/month upwards for Sky or cable, the only package that includes any EU languages was £90/month last time I asked! shock
Given I don't watch any sport or movies, I've never bothered.

Ds is at least obsessed with the Lingo Show, which is mildly fun but aims so low, 3 words per episode. He can at least say hello, thank you, sausage, cheese and orange in six languages, and is very smug that he knows more Welsh and Urdu than I do. German and a decent vocab with tourist-level French, and basic Italian, Norwegian and Arabic doesn't impress a four-year-old at all...

SixPackWellies Fri 12-Jul-13 14:35:15

I used to be relatively fluent in Russian (although have not spoken it now for a decade and am very rusty) and I think among other things, it made me understand how English is structured a great deal better. I went to a bit of a new age school where they did not believe in teaching grammar as they thought it inhibited creative expression and learning another language enabled me to understand how things are structured.

Also- just last week I was able to help baffled tourists find their way, which gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. They were astounded there was anyone in this little remote quintessentially English village who could direct them!

SixPackWellies Fri 12-Jul-13 14:36:48

although, re-reading that post, one wonders if I understand English grammar at all grin

Verycold Fri 12-Jul-13 21:30:04

Teabag, we have a satellite dish which picks up 30+ German channels for free, not sure if that's an option for you? A TV technician guy set it up for us.

teabagpleb Fri 12-Jul-13 21:37:21

Very - I'd heard it was possible and not too expensive. Will look into it again once building work finishes (satellite dish would wobble too much!). Thanks!

Verycold Fri 12-Jul-13 21:41:27

Yes it only cost about £150 including installation.

horsetowater Fri 12-Jul-13 21:49:38

I grew up bilingual, never got me anywhere at all, apart from a couple of jobs here and there that I wasn't particularly interested in. And intellectually it has made my writing style a little confusing, particularly as I have got older. I tend to start a paragraph with the last sentence and start a sentence with the last phrase. Sometimes I start a letter with the conclusion - this is directly related to the language that I learned, which is phrased in this way.

viewwitharoom Sat 13-Jul-13 06:58:23

Another MFL teacher here (German and Russian) although haven't taught Russian for some time. It is hard not to despair about the status of MFL in the curriculum but sometimes hard to explain to non linguists how learning another language is beneficial even to those who may not go on to use it directly at work. I work in Scotland in a school where uptake beyond S2/S3 is pretty good but the way the curriculum is organised there is no scope for second MFL uptake.

AnythingNotEverything Sat 13-Jul-13 10:00:58

Horse - that's a really interesting point. I've not come across any negatives before. I suppose at least you have the self awareness!

castlesintheair Sat 13-Jul-13 10:06:32

I agree and it's one of the reasons why we are living abroad for a couple of years so that our DCs will be fluent in the language. My DH is fluent in 3 languages, a brilliant communicator and used to help me when I was struggling with my English Lit degree essays many years ago even though his was in a different subject.

horsetowater Sat 13-Jul-13 12:16:32

I think there is a difference between learning a different language where the process of learning in itself is hugely beneficial and not like learning any other subject, and growing up bilingual where the learning process is more about absorbing the language and culture.

I think everyone should learn a language but the way schools are set up - with little speaking time and lots of listening time - is never going to do language learning justice. I think it's vital to speak the language with the correct intonation and accent (even if you're just reading it out loud and don't actually understand it fully).

Everhopeful Fri 19-Jul-13 04:58:06

Just wanted to flag up that there are lots of TV language shows available on the net. Most countries love teaching others their language, usually through some sort of state-sponsored material via a major TV channel, though it helps for some of these shows if you're at least intermediate. TV5 for French is exceptionally good.

doobeedee Sat 27-Jul-13 22:16:39

Teabagpleb just get any old satellite dish and receiver and point it at Astra19. Loads of free German, French and Spanish channels.

Pragmatica Thu 01-Aug-13 11:28:54

I'm an academic who teaches in a Language department (endangered species emoticon). I would agree about online resources such as TV5, etc., but also point you towards youtube (interviews, TV shows, news clips, pop songs with subtitles...). Yes to making sure that students learn to value correct intonation and accent (and basic rules of pronunciation) rather than rote-learned oral exam stuff. We pick up bad mistakes in pronunciation all the way up to post-docs (and, ahem, professors blush) who have basically been badly taught, and who have not spent long enough "in" the language... which means that they cannot be taken seriously for language teaching at degree level (= forming the language teachers of tomorrow).
Obviously, I'm a trifle biased but I would say that there are big advantages to taking a modern language at A-Level and university. For the moment, studying languages puts UK students into a minority, and that (happily) spells better job prospects for them. The year abroad/ERASMUS studies teaches essential 'grown-up' skills, all about functioning on your own, without your parents, sorting out everything from a second-language and second-culture starting point: sorting out your own bank account and mobile phone connection, working out that people speak and act in varied ways (and that the UK ways are not "normality")... It really does make someone more mature.

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