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German or Spanish based on English set - which is seen as 'harder'?

(28 Posts)
CambridgeBlue Sat 11-Jul-15 08:54:27

At DD's school they study either German or Spanish in addition to French based on how good they are at English - so those in the higher English set would do one and those in the lower English set the other. Obviously they don't tell you which option refers to which but I thought it'd be easy to work out.

However DD has been given Spanish which people are saying is the 'softer' option despite her having always done really well at English and I'd really like to know if this is right.

I'm genuinely not being a pushy parent but English is something she's always been good at and if she's not doing so well now I'd like to know why. She'll be picking her options next year (we're 3 tier here hence her changing schools in September) and it feels like a really important time so if there's anything we can do to help I'd like to try.

BrianButterfield Sat 11-Jul-15 08:56:01

It might not be anything to do with hardness of language, maybe it's staffing or timetable related. They might have more staff who teach Spanish or German available, for example.

LIZS Sat 11-Jul-15 09:03:46

German is normally perceived as the more technical and
Spanish quicker to learn but agree it may be more down to timetabling. There may be parallel sets for English , some would do one, some the other.

CambridgeBlue Sat 11-Jul-15 09:04:00

Thanks but they specifically said it's determined by English sets which were themselves determined by the tests they sat a few months back. At DD's last parents evening she was heading for an A in English and the teacher was full of praise so I wonder if she had problems with the test.

TeenAndTween Sat 11-Jul-15 09:49:58

It could still be determined by sets:
For example, it could go
Set 1 -> Spanish
Set 2 -> German
Set 3 -> Spanish
Set 4 -> German

TeenAndTween Sat 11-Jul-15 09:50:42

And actually, I think Spanish is the more preferable of those two options as it is more widely spoken across the world.

KenDoddsDadsDog Sat 11-Jul-15 09:57:07

It's hard to work out which is more difficult. English is a Germanic language so in theory more straightforward. Spanish is fast to get started with. Spanish also the gateway to Romance languages - I followed up my Spanish with Catalan and Portuguese.
I have no idea which would be lower set !

ShanghaiDiva Sat 11-Jul-15 10:04:37

I would have thought the 2nd language would be determined by performance in 1st foreign language - that's it how it was at my school back in the 1980s!
Anyway - that doesn't really answer your question. Of the two, I think German is technically more difficult due to the cases, (and a sound understanding of grammar will help) however, both are useful languages.

LaVolcan Sat 11-Jul-15 10:39:32

I don't know if this will help - I have learnt both at evening classes. I found German grammar difficult initially with cases and word order, but once I had put the effort into mastering those, it became much easier.

As to Spanish, I was once told that it's an easy language to learn badly, which I have found to be very true. It seems easy to pick up initially but then the complexities and subtleties creep in e.g. when to use ser or estar trips up many English learners, or por/para.

I found the German accent easier too.

CambridgeBlue Sat 11-Jul-15 10:59:45

I wondered if there was a standard way that schools did this but obviously not! I learn German and found it very easy (got an A in GCSE) but I did have a great teacher. I know nothing of Spanish other than that I like the accent smile.

RandomMess Sat 11-Jul-15 11:01:56

All I can say is that you can be very good at English and cr*p at languages...

Hopefully your dd will have inherited your linguistic abilities though smile

ZombieHunter Sat 11-Jul-15 12:08:15

I am Head of MFL and we have German and Spanish at our school. We have eight sets in total, four more able ones and four lower able ones.

It's more or less pot luck on which group gets what as it has to work out with our timetabling due to us being a small department and us trying to not split classes.

In general we try to have two Spanish and two German classes for the higher sets and the same system for the lower sets, so every teacher gets a fair distribution of higher and lower able learners.

What teenandtween mentions is exactly as we had this year, it's just how it works best for all. So, your DD might still be seen as higher in English, but they needed to split the higher ones between the two languages to work it out best for timetabling / staff allocation.

ZombieHunter Sat 11-Jul-15 12:10:24

Another reason we try to distribute the sets fairly is that we will likely have a better GCSE uptake (not compulsory at the moment) for both languages.

Imagine all higher able kids learnt German and lower ones did Spanish. Spanish would struggle recruiting the right pupils for GCSE and get the results the schools and the government aim for.

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 11-Jul-15 21:47:02

Spanish is much easier than German - if you don't understand English grammar, then you are really going to struggle with German (and don't even think about learning a Slav language).

mousmous Sat 11-Jul-15 21:54:35

spanish grammar is very difficult.
agree with above poster who says it's a language that is easy to speak badly.

german is easy in comparision, very complex but (with exceptions of course) with quite strict rules.

imo only

MrsSchadenfreude Sat 11-Jul-15 22:45:36

I don't think Spanish grammar is difficult. I would say it is one of the easiest languages for a native English speaker to learn. German (and Dutch) are more like English, true, but the grammar can be a bitch compared to Spanish - separable verbs? Sending the verb to the end on certain occasions?

Pico2 Sat 11-Jul-15 22:50:32

Wouldn't it be easier to work out which English set is which based on who is in them?

BackforGood Sun 12-Jul-15 00:22:00

My dd MUCH prefers (ie, finds easier) German to her other languages, as German tends to follow rules more strictly and is more logical, and you can 'work it out'...... dd also like maths and physics and other things that 'follow rules'. So, for some dc, they would find German easier, but others would find Spanish easier.

Are you sure it's not like in my dds' school, where, they were set (in Yr7) based on their English levels in Yr6 SATS, then (there was quite a lot of fluidity during the 2nd half of the year) by the end of yr 7, the pupils who were doing well in languages were offered the opportunity to do another language, but those finding it more difficult were given more timetable space to continue with the first language they started learning. Of those who took a 2nd lang., half did German and 1/2 Spanish, but that was a fairly arbitory split, not related to their ability, other than the fact they were good at language number 1, so were encouraged to take up a second MFL in Yr8?

CambridgeBlue Sun 12-Jul-15 08:14:52

Maybe it's not as clear cut as I thought. I honestly don't care which language she does (although I would have been able to help her with German which would have been a novelty as I can't often do her homework - well Maths anyway!) I would just like reassurance that she's not having problems in English because it's looking as though she may go down a creative/media type career path where it would be vital.

Guess I'll have to see if I can pick up any other clues and maybe speak to the school as a last resort if I'm worried.

KenDoddsDadsDog Sun 12-Jul-15 09:37:11

Spanish subjunctive was so hard to learn , we rarely use it in English so it was a challenge !

mysteryfairy Sun 12-Jul-15 09:42:58

Does DD know who else is in her English set? She'll probably be able to tell you which set she is in by this.

notquitegrownup2 Sun 12-Jul-15 09:45:34

My son does both German and Spanish - thought Spanish was easier to learn, but finds German exams easier now. So, sorry, no help to you to know which is the easier language!!

German has more rules to learn than Spanish, so it seems harder (apart from the subjunctive - does that come at GCSE or A level?) IME, it is therefore easier to get technical marks and therefore to reach the higher grades, by showing you are in control of your word order, tenses etc.

IHE in Spanish (and French) it is easier to start with, but therefore a bit more challenging to get the higher grades, as you simply need to do a bit more of everything - a bit more challenging vocab, a bit more fluency in speaking, a bit more accurate, a bit better at discerning what they are saying in listening exams.


Needmoresleep Sun 12-Jul-15 11:43:59

Both DC chose German as a second language.

DS found it easier than French. He is a mathematician rather than a linguist and liked the rules, and the fact that you did not have to adopt a weird accent. A major reason for his choice is that he wanted to study economics and was keenly interested in politics and German gave him a chance to understand better Europe's largest economy and de facto political leader.

DD was impressed by her brother's enthusiasm, but also chose German because the "cool kids" were going to take Spanish, and Yr 7 & 8 had been difficult. (So glad we never have to do those years again with a girl!) It would have been OK in Yr 9 because they all seemed to calm down, but the logic still worked as it seemed that because of the perception that Spanish is easier, some of the brighter more focussed children seemed to opt for German. It also meant the class was smaller.

One advantage of German for a working parent is that the Geothe Institut run great three week residential summer camps with language in the morning and activities in the afternoons. DC really enjoyed them, met other lovely teens from across the world and were effectively well set for a good grade at GCSE. (And I had a good chunk of the long holidays covered.)

That said you get further with a smattering of Spanish (and GCSE is only an smattering) than with German, plus English is very widely spoken in Germany so unless you are going to spend a lot of time there, you dont really need it.

Millymollymama Sun 12-Jul-15 18:17:45

I don't think English lessons at senior school have much to do with MFL ability unless your DC is looking at a fairly low grade, then MFL might be a struggle. As she might get an A I would say Spanish or German attainment is more likely to be more closely allied to her French results. What are they?

CambridgeBlue Sun 12-Jul-15 20:48:25

I'm wondering now if I've got this wrong blush. It doesn't sounds as though it can be done on ability, it makes no sense. I wouldn't normally compare but I know DD's best friend is less good at English but she is doing German. DD is average at French so that doesn't give me much of a clue. I think it must be a timetabling thing so I'll stop worrying now confused.

Thanks for all the info smile

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