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Language Choice

(13 Posts)
Taz1212 Fri 28-Feb-14 13:56:16

Would you try to sway your child's choice of MFL? DS needs to choose between Mandarin, French, Spanish and German to study for the next 4 years. After the second year he can add a second language if he wants to. After the 4 years he can continue with either/both languages or drop one and take yet another for two years or drop languages all together.

He's had taster sessions for each language and has decided he really really really wants to learn Mandarin ("really, really" he keeps telling me). Spanish would be his second choice. He doesn't know why he really wants to learn Mandarin, but he's only 11, so not too surprising, he just seems to have been quite taken by the taster session. He has no opinion on any of the other languages. He's been studying French this year and while he's picking it up very quickly, he's a bit blah about it.

DH isn't that keen on the idea. He thinks DS should choose the language with the most practical application - I.e. does DS see himself living in China as an adult and if not, it's a waste of time. I lean towards the view of learning for the sake of learning and tend to think DS should choose the language he will enjoy the most, though Mandarin seems to be quite difficult and 4 years is a long time to make the wrong decision! However, I don't think I could choose a "most practical" language out of the rest- maybe Spanish at a push?

I've just filled out the form (not sure if we've made the right choice!) but I'm curious as to how other DC choose which language to take up.

Needmoresleep Fri 28-Feb-14 14:07:12

Is he musical? East Asian tonal languages are very hard if you don't have a good ear. If he does then he might enjoy it, and it will open up a window to the very different way non-European languages are formed. The grammar, oddly, is quite straightforward.

Otherwise boys often enjoy German, because they like the logical structure. Germans is also often less popular as it is perceived as harder than French or Spanish and so you often get smaller classes and self-selecting brighter kids.

If you really don't like languages but have to choose one, I would opt for Spanish.

Taz1212 Fri 28-Feb-14 14:10:26

That's interesting. He is very musical. Maybe we made the right choice. grin

sanschocolat Fri 28-Feb-14 14:14:44

I agree about Spanish being a very sensible 'default' language to fall back on.

Shame he can't just do a taster of Mandarin for a bit to see if it is something he really wants to embark on for four years!

Tb (and this is going to be really unhelpful so I apologise in advance!) I think that the most important factor in a child's progress (or lack of progress) in a language depends on the quality of the teaching. My nephew excelled in German for three years, in fact the entire class were hugely enthusiastic and reached a really advanced level, until he had a change of teacher and then it all went downhill thereafter. So if your ds's school is traditionally strong in a particular language or set of languages, then I would probably go for that. Difficult to predict 4 yrs ahead though!

Dinosaursareextinct Fri 28-Feb-14 14:21:35

Does he have a good visual memory? That's important for Chinese. For the rest, having a good aural memory is more important.
He's more likely to be able to go on a holiday or language exchange within Europe.

TeenAndTween Fri 28-Feb-14 14:41:45

China is becoming more economically important, whereas English is well taught across Europe.
For work later, being able to converse politely to Chinese suppliers / customers could be a good extra. (Or knowing it could be pointless later of course).

Martorana Fri 28-Feb-14 14:46:26

In my experience th chances of emerging at the end of 4 years with anything but the most rudimentary knowledge of any language is pretty slim- so I think he should choose the one that interests him most. Or the one which would be most difficult to teach himself a bit of if he needs it later. Mandarin seems to tick both boxes for him!

learnasyougo Fri 28-Feb-14 14:47:15

learning a foreign language is hard enough. an interest or liking for the language is a huge advantage so I would go with mandarin, no question.

once you have learned one foreign language, learning others becomes easier, so he would still have capacity to pick up another language is he needs to. I'm a polyglot (three languages fluently, two more patchily).

ProfondoRosso Fri 28-Feb-14 14:47:17

If he wants to learn Mandarin, I'd say go for it. In a purely pragmatic sense, it will look better on a CV than any of the romance languages. DH works in finance and has told me how knowledge of Mandarin often makes the difference between who gets the job and who doesn't. Of course it depends what sector you want to work in, though.

I speak French, Italian and some Spanish and would honestly say, because of their closeness to English in many ways, they are not too hard to pick up, if he wanted to do so in any extra classes. Four years of Mandarin tuition, however, would be hard to come by and costly in the future.

Taz1212 Fri 28-Feb-14 14:55:47

OK, I'm feeling more reassured now because I did put Mandarin down as his first choice!

I'm honestly not that fussed if he doesn't end up using it at all when he's older. I did my degree in German and the last time I spoke any German was 15 years ago when in Turkey with a non-English <but did speak German> Turkish taxi driver. grin

MillyMollyMama Fri 28-Feb-14 18:50:14

You never know, he might love Mandarin so much that he studies it at University. I would try and do a second language though as two languages keeps more options open for linguists later should he develop into one. Your DH has a very narrow view of languages!!! Language learning offers many skills that are not just around holidays and living abroad. If your DS had not chosen Mandarin, I would have said French and German as they are Latin languages and closely related. Only linguists 'pick languages up' readily without years of tuition. The rest of us labour away and are still useless. Many, many people find languages difficult so if you are good at languages, it is wonderful, but few find it easy.

Dinosaursareextinct Fri 28-Feb-14 22:24:09

People abroad seem to pick English up a lot more easily than we pick foreign languages up. MFLs are taught terribly here, with very low expectations - geared at passing GCSE rather than communicating in the language. You're lucky he has the choice of 4 - around here you get a choice of one or two, even the so called specialist MFL school only offers French and German.

meerschweinchen Fri 28-Feb-14 22:34:04

As an mfl teacher, I totally agree with letting him choose. They are all 'useful' languages in their own ways, and enthusiasm is definitely important. I feel that if you don't let him choose, and he struggles with the language you want him to do, then he'll blame you, rather than try harder!

Dinosaurs - I think many people abroad have the advantage of listing to English music, watching English films etc, in a way that is just not possible / available here. Plus they start teaching at a much earlier age and have sooo many more hours teaching time than we do. And I agree, it is sadly all about passing GCSEs. Tis a pity sad

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