This is a Premium feature
To use this feature subscribe to Mumsnet Premium - get first access to new features see fewer ads, and support Mumsnet.Start using Mumsnet Premium
What are the benefits of a language GCSE if you’re not going to study languages further?(59 Posts)
DD is in the process of choosing her options for GCSE’s. She is top set for all subjects. She is torn whether to take Spanish or not. She is very good at it but she doesn’t enjoy it and has no plans to go further in study or career wise with a language. I am saying that it is always good to have a language so why not. And it has now been made compulsory to take a language GCSE from now on in my sons year (Year 7) so my son will have to take one. Will it ever be a detriment to DD if she doesn’t have a language?
Also she is keen to take both Geography and History but a lot of her friends are saying taking both is too much work. Does anyone know if this is true? We have an Options evening next week so can ask all these questions then but thought I’d see if Mumsnet had any advice!
Do you mean education steps wise or in life?
Education wise not a great deal.
Life I would think quite a lot.
- once you know one language it is easier to learn another
- work trips abroad
- possibly jobs
- confidence to 'have a go'
My DD has a little Spanish flag on her name badge showing she can speak Spanish!
Geography & History are both quite content heavy. As is Combined Science (and Triple even more so).
Spanish is more cumulative, learn as you go along, so even under the new spec (which I'm not familiar with) I would have thought it would have less final revision load than Hist/Geog.
I've got one child who took a language and doesn't enjoy it at all. He's not great at it, therefore doesn't work, and so for him I think the experience has been an utter waste of time.
It makes me really sad, I have travelled a lot and learned a few languages to varying degrees, and I've gained so much from those experiences that I'm quite evangelical about the benefits! I just think the simple act of attempting to speak a foreign language in a foreign country is contributing to a better world. I say that as a Brit who is obviously aware of how shitty the UK has been towards colonised nations and how shitty we continue to be, expecting everyone to give us special treatment because ours is a lingua franca and because we civilises the world (don't make me laugh).
Also, Spanish: how many countries can you use it in?! It would be so useful when travelling!
I speak loads of languages but none of them fluently (although I'd like to!) but just having that core base in many European languages makes my life so much easier and nicer when travelling. People are friendlier if you greet them in their language, menus are translated so awfully into English that food sounds disgusting whereas in its original it sounds delicious.
Also you understand English so much more when you've learnt how another language works. Your innate knowledge of grammatical structures and suffixes improves and your English writing becomes much richer.
When you travel, you realise how normal bilingualism is to so many people that it's hard to understand why so many Brits claim not to be able to do it. I think it's because we approach it as a chore rather than a pleasure, sadly, and a lot of schools doing rote grammar doesn't help this (although they're desperately trying to get kids to a certain level in no time).
It's brilliant being a polyglot! Spanish is also my favourite of my languages so I'd wholeheartedly recommend it. So much wonderful media available in Spanish language!
I think a mix of GCSE subjects is taken to show an ability to learn in different ways. So a mix of sciences, humanities, languages and arts subjects might suggest a child has more flexibility than one who restricts those choices.
Not saying that this is actually true - just that this is what might be perceived by future educational establishments.
I agree it's absolutely something cumulative too, so even if she doesn't think it's useful until her thirties, she would be able to build on what she did for gcse. My Dh is fluent in Spanish now (he had to be, through work) and he thought it was impossible to learn a language as an adult but somehow, the french gcse he had from years back gave him enough of a jump start.
Secondly, the fact you need to SPEAK to learn a language does really develop that "wing it" confidence that you need to go to job interviews or give a talk in public.
Academically you never know. DD chose to go to uni in Ireland and her uni insisted on GCSE language.
I agree with the people that say that speaking another language is a life skill that is very beneficial. But the reality is that if she doesn’t study past GCSE then she will probably forget lots of it anyway....
Her dream is to go to Oxford or Cambridge (this is without even knowing where her education is going to take her!) If having a language were a prerequisite to being offered a place then she would take Spanish without hesitation. But she wouldn’t be taking it for the love of the language.
All of her choices so far are very academic and I am a little bit concerned that she is putting a lot on her plate.
Because she might change her mind and do a language at A level.
Universities still like it.
Because she will be able to pick it up again more easily.
She might want to work abroad and spanish is an excellent language.
For me, it's not just about the language, but the insight into the way others think and live. The opportunity to broaden horizons.
That said, it's amazing how much of an Italian menu you can read with one person's GCSE French, and the others GCSE German!
I only did French to O level.
But it was 'good enough' 30 or so years later to help me on holidays in France, and to have helped DD1 with her French GCSE (she did French & Spanish).
Some unis eg UCL, ask for a GCSE language, even if you want to study a course that has nothing to do with languages, as they believe it demonstrates the “international outlook” they are trying to foster.
We are in the same boat. DD is year 9 and she is very academic and wants to go to Cambridge and is considering not taking a language as the schools results are poor. As she's mathematical and top set do triple science she will have to take 10 or 10.5 GCSEs plus 1 Level 3 Additional Maths so 11 or 11.5 in all which is more than we would like.
She wants Eng x 2, Maths, Triple Science which is basically compulsory for top set, then as 4 options:
Stats which comes with Additional Maths Level 3
RE - if she doesn't take GCSE RE she has to take another option plus compulsory 0.5 RE under school rules.
I did 2 languages at GCSE, its useful for holidays but never used it much in employment - they have used native speakers.
What is your DD choosing - mine has all academic choices and no practical ones but that's what she prefers. I had to take one practical but the practical one was the most work.
When I was taking my GCSEs I had no plans to use a language in life either. I didn’t know then that I would end up moving to Spain - I wish I’d paid way more attention to languages when I was younger!
I personally think the way we approach foreign languages in this country is a disgrace and makes us look extremely ignorant to the rest of the world.
It informs other language learning, including English, and expands knowledge and understanding of other cultures and points of view.
Yes I’ve got o level French too. Happy to have a go on holiday and fairly reasonable even 40 years later, so she wouldn’t necessarily forget it.
I’ve also got a smattering of Welsh, Latin, Italian and Spanish picked up from school or night classes. The kids are very impressed when I pull out the odd phrase when necessary.
I did German to Higher Level at school and 6th year studies French. Didn’t go on to study languages initially but it was useful at university to be able to read untranslated texts and to be able to speak these languages travelling abroad. And you never know where life will take you. I ended up studying German later in life, also learned Russian, moved to continental Europe and now use these languages on a regular basis. Plus it opens up friendships and makes for better relationships with overseas colleagues. Think of how many Spanish speakers there are in the world, it’s a great language to learn!
For any DC looking at Oxbridge, they do look at GCSE profile. It’s not compulsory to have a MFL but it does demonstrate a well rounded education pre A level. Top independent schools wouldn’t let Oxbridge candidates drop it unless they were definitely mathematicians and scientists. If it’s a humanities subject it’s an advantage to have it.
From the point of view of understanding other cultures, it’s important that we encourage MFL. We should encourage an all round education prior to A levels and MFL exercises the brain in a way other subjects don’t.
My DDs had to choose between Geography and History at GCSE. The scientists tended to choose Geography as it’s a better fit with sciences. History tended to go with English and MFL and Politics A levels. I would do the language and drop one of these unless her results will be severely compromised due to poor teaching.
@KoalasandRabbit so she has the 2 English, Maths, Triple Science (has to do as top set science), RE (compulsory as it’s a faith school). Then she wants to choose History, Geography and then a toss up between Spanish or Business Studies. What is the Level 3 Maths additional? I haven’t heard of that.
So all her options are academic and all 100% exam. But she is academic rather than creative so that’s what she wants to do.
One of my nephews did French GCSE and absolutely hated it.
He then met lots of Spanish speakers through one of the hobbies he did at 16 and decided he wanted to speak to them in their own language.
When he went to university he had a chance to learn Spanish from scratch as an add on to his degree. The uni suggested that you should at least have a language at GCSE or speak another language to make it easier to learn but it wasn't compulsory. Outside his lessons he practiced with every Spanish speaker he met including some people I know. Watched and still watches Spanish speaking TV. He also did a year in Spain as part of his degree.
He doesn't use it officially for work but works with people from all over the world so talks to some of his colleagues in Spanish. When I've talked to him about his job interviews I think the fact he's fluent in Spanish in international facing companies has helped him get the jobs he's gone for.
In regards to doing things like history and geography at GCSE once you gone through university and got your first job, no one cares whether you have done them or not. So it's better to take a range that doesn't cut your options down later in life.
@BubblesBuddy thanks, that’s really helpful to know! With regards History/Geography she enjoys History more but gets slightly better grades for Geography. She is probably better at English than Maths but is extremely able at everything really. Her English teacher told her she’d get a 9 for her creative writing if she were to sit her GCSE’s now. And she is in the top 5 of her top set class for Maths. But I’d say that she’d err to the English side of things given the choice.
Hmmmm, just seeing it all written down, along with the compulsory RE if she takes both History AND Geography then that will be 3 humanities subjects which is a bit overkill I feel.
OP, be careful with “Business Studies” as some unis do not include it on their “preferred list”, along with Media Studies, General Studies, etc.
Please login first.