Threads

See more results

Topics

Usernames

Mumsnet Logo
Please
or
to access all these features

A level Spanish etc for bilingual kids whose mother tongues are English/Spanish
97

rattusrattus20 · 24/09/2019 19:57

Apologies if this is a frequently asked question.

If you have kids who are Spanish near-bilingual (now aged 10), what are the chances that in 8 & a bit years' time a university is going to accept a [hopefully really good grade in] a Spanish A level as a valid pass when making offers? Are there any steps that could be taken [I'm not exactly talking about hiding their Spanish proficiency from the school but YKWIM] now to increase the chances that the A levels would be accepted?

OP's posts:
Please
or
to access all these features

seasidequayside · 24/09/2019 20:43

A German friend of dd's did German A level and got into Manchester with her grade accepted. I know there was a London uni (possibly UCL or LSE) that she couldn't apply to because they wouldn't accept a native language A level, but I'm not sure if there were any others.

I can't see what steps you could take now to hide your dc's ability to speak Spanish Wink. You might find your dc has no interest in taking Spanish A level when the time comes, but it's still a valuable skill and, depending on the course, could be useful for the personal statement.

Please
or
to access all these features

Propertyfaux · 24/09/2019 20:50

It is university dependant and also what you class as native language. A friends DC who is German but her DD has fathers British name took A level German but her school reference commented on her bilingual abilities and connection. Her favourite university wanted AAA from her instead of the usual AAB.

Please
or
to access all these features

SirTobyBelch · 24/09/2019 20:59

Why do you need to know this now? In six years' time, when she/he is/they are choosing A-level subjects, you'll be able to get a much better idea of which way the wind is blowing.

At present, universities are advised to treat all language A-levels equally to avoid jumping to conclusions about students' first/second-language status, e.g. by guessing from their names. However, there is a great deal of concern about falling numbers of students taking modern-language A-levels. Non-native speakers are reluctant to take them because the grade boundaries are pushed so high by the performance of native speakers. Unless some way can be found to avoid deterring non-native speakers, the very low rates of uptake of modern-language study at A-level and beyond will continue to get worse. It is possible, therefore, that something will be done about native language qualifications being considered on the same basis as second-language ones, but it's impossible to predict this far ahead.

Please
or
to access all these features

Fozzleyplum · 24/09/2019 21:01

Apparently, 50% of the students who get A* in German A Level are native, or near-native speakers, usually not disclosed as such. A number of university language depts wrote to Ofqual recently to complain, if I remember correctly, that this was putting off students who were not native speakers, from taking the language as it was suppressing grades.

I wonder if that might make it more likely that native speakers are required to declare their level of proficiency in future, in light if those representations.

At recent open days with DS, who is off to uni next week to study modern foreign languages, we noticed there were parents, usually mothers (so probably the candidates' surnames were not a giveaway) at the q&a sessions, who had an accent that matched the language being offered.

Please
or
to access all these features

Fozzleyplum · 24/09/2019 21:06

Cross post with Sir Toby. I might add that at a couple of the ( v prestigious) universities in question, the odd wry comment was made about this by some of the academics. They clearly don't like it, not least because it is affecting applicant numbers, so I expect it will be clamped down on in the future.

Please
or
to access all these features

FluffytheGoldfish · 24/09/2019 23:09

A friend of my dd was told by one university that they would not count her A level (or it might have been Advanced Higher) in Mandarin as it was her was her native language, she was particularly annoyed as the language spoken at home was Cantonese. (She was not planning on studying languages and did not end up needing it)

Please
or
to access all these features

Bezalelle · 24/09/2019 23:13

But knowing Cantonese would give her an advantage at Mandarin. They're not a million miles apart.

Please
or
to access all these features

FluffytheGoldfish · 25/09/2019 07:31

ISorry I was not as clear as I me t to be, when I edited my post I deleted too much. What I meant to include was that that yes native speakers are being penalised by some universities(she applied to 3 Scottish and 2 English universities and was only told this by one) , but also a comment on the assumptions being made due to a name. Another issue she had was some Scottish University's would not count A level /Advanced Higher as she had already passed Higher so they were looking for a different subject.

Please
or
to access all these features

fussychica · 25/09/2019 09:53

DS studied Bachillerato, rather than A levels, in Spain so was fluent in the language. He took a multi language degree at a UK university. When he was applying Bath was the only place that came straight out and told him they wouldn't accept him for anything including Spanish. I thought this was pretty harsh. This was 8 years ago so things may have changed.

Please
or
to access all these features

fussychica · 25/09/2019 09:55

That sounds like they wouldn't consider him for any degree. I actually meant one which included Spanish as a module/main subject area.

Please
or
to access all these features

berlinbabylon · 25/09/2019 10:39

50% of the students who get A in German A Level are native, or near-native speakers, usually not disclosed as such*

That means 50% are not. I got an A at German with no family connections at all (in the days before A stars). There was a girl in my class whose mum was German, she didn't seem to be much better than we were, I don't actually know if she got an A. This all seems to be a non-issue to me. DS is doing Spanish A level with no family connections and I expect him to do well.

I can't really see the difference between having a German mum and a mum who's a physics lecturer at the local uni and you doing Physics A level. You are still going to have a massive advantage. And I don't suppose that gets disclosed on a school reference because they often won't know what parents do for a living.

I think unis should take things as they are and not second guess what advantages people may have. Even if you live in an affluent post code treating you as being affluent and therefore not deserving of a contextual offer is a blunt instrument, there are food bank users everywhere.

Please
or
to access all these features

rattusrattus20 · 25/09/2019 10:50

Thanks, there are some great responses on here, food for thought.

Re: the proportion of A German A level passes awarded to semi-native speakers, I'd be astonished, TBH, if it was as low* as 50%.

(1) There were 3,000 people who sat it in 2019, and 13% [so roughly 400] A* passes (www.bstubbs.co.uk/a-lev.htm).

(2) There are about 300,000 German born people [some of whom will have married other Germans, some of whom won't] living in the UK (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germans_in_the_United_Kingdom)... so assuming that people live for say 90 years on average, there were in 2019 well over 3,000 18 yr olds who had at least one German born parent. Why wouldn't say 10% of those kids have managed to score an A* in A level German?

OP's posts:
Please
or
to access all these features

Trewser · 25/09/2019 10:55

Non-native speakers are reluctant to take them because the grade boundaries are pushed so high by the performance of native speakers this is why dd won't take French. It saddens me, as she's really good at it.

Please
or
to access all these features

Fozzleyplum · 25/09/2019 11:32

Berlin, I see a significant difference. We are talking about fair comparisons in relation to a subject which is tested and graded on the assumption that it has been learned as a second, non-native language.A candidate who learned German alongside English because that was the language spoken at home from birth, is going to have an advantage that was not intended by the exam boards. A pupil who has support at home because their parent happens to teach the subject does have some advantage, but it is not the same.

Please
or
to access all these features

Fozzleyplum · 25/09/2019 11:36

And of course not all parents with English as a second language, speak it at home. I was at school with a girl whose mother was German. She could swear in German (as could I - she used to give me a lift!), but she was not taught German at home.

Please
or
to access all these features

Fifthtimelucky · 25/09/2019 12:14

I understand that there are two different versions of the Welsh GCSE: one for native speakers and for others. Presumably it wouldn't be impossible to do the same for other languages.

I think for languages like French, Spanish and German, that have traditionally been taught in this country, the assumption is that native speakers make up a small proportion of the total number of entries, so make little difference. As the number of entries is falling, that is perhaps changing. Entries will presumably continue to fall further if those like Trewser's daughter decide not to take language A levels because of these concerns.

I suspect that for less common languages, the proportion of native speakers is even higher. In 2018 8.3% of all A level entries were awarded A*s and 18.5% were awarded As. For Russian, the equivalent figures were 35.5% and 53.8%. It is possible that the average A level Russian student is much cleverer and/or hardworking than the average A level student, or that the teaching of Russian A level is much higher than the teaching of other subjects. However, I bet that the proportion of A level students who are native Russian speakers was very high.

Please
or
to access all these features

Trewser · 25/09/2019 12:15

5 girls took Russian A level at dds school. They were all Russian. As and A*s.

Please
or
to access all these features

Propertyfaux · 25/09/2019 12:50

It’s not just a problem at A level, both my DCs had to take a language but their school is now allowing pupils to drop and substitute the subject for another whilst at the same time offering more choice in types of language. I do think being bilingual should be awarded but there is unintended consequences. The percentages can be nothing more than guess work, DCs bilingual friends count English as their native language.

Please
or
to access all these features

Fozzleyplum · 25/09/2019 12:51

The "native speaker advantage" also put DS2 off taking French as his third A Level, as he is not looking at modern languages for university and will need at least 3 As.

Please
or
to access all these features

Trewser · 25/09/2019 12:53

Dd is in the same position fozzley

Please
or
to access all these features

SoonerthanIthought · 25/09/2019 16:51

"Apparently, 50% of the students who get A in German A Level are native, or near-native speakers, usually not disclosed as such*

There was an Ofqual study into this recently, which I think found that nearly 20% of German A level candidates were native speakers (relying on school info so not 'checked.) So if 50% of A star candidates were native or near native speakers, that suggests it is quite an advantage. (or that the native speakers are on average brighter/harder working/better taught - no reason to suppose that is the case.)

I think the result was that exam boards were allowed to lower the grade boundaries a bit for German (and possibly also Spanish and French - can't remember?) to try to redress the balance - I'm not sure I understand how it does that!

I have heard anecdotally that somestudents (and parents) are now avoiding mfl A levels for precisely this reason. Whether they're right or wrong to do so - it does seem to be a cause for concern that affects people's choices. And the problem of defining and identifying who is or isn't a native or near native speaker is, basically, pretty insoluble!

Please
or
to access all these features

Fozzleyplum · 25/09/2019 17:17

Here is one of the articles I read. DS1's tutors and HOD are signatories and were talking about the problem at the offer-holder day that we attended.

Please
or
to access all these features

Fozzleyplum · 25/09/2019 17:28

....and here's the article with the A* stats.

Please
or
to access all these features

lesstressy · 25/09/2019 17:44

My DC was a talented linguist and keen to do an MFL A level but was put off for exactly this reason. Someone in her class, a native speaker with a French mother so not obvious from the surname, chose French as one of their three A levels with the intention of applying for MFL at Oxbridge. My DC couldn't see how they could possibly compete and chose another subject at which they could aim for (and achieved) A*.

Thirty years ago when I did A levels MFL was far more literature-based, more akin to English Literature A level but in the target language. I think that will be the only way to level the playing field a bit as I can't see many children (or their parents) wanting to admit to having family who are native speakers to their own disadvantage. Integrity as a character trait seems to be dying out.
My DC has no regrets about their decision and thinks that they would not be at the uni they are now if they had risked taking an MFL A level.

Please
or
to access all these features

onedayallthiswillbeyours · 25/09/2019 19:52

My DD (no Spanish connections, got a 7 at GCSE and has always just been quite naturally good at picking up languages) has just started Spanish A-level. After her first lesson she came home absolutely despondent saying she would have to drop it as everyone else in the class is a native speaker, she couldn't understand a word and felt completely out of her depth. I have managed to convince her to stick with it a bit longer and have found her a local tutor (she's having an hour a week) at a cost of £24 a week!!! Bearing in mind she has 2 years ahead of her this is going to be quite a substantial investment and I'm fortunate to be able to afford it at the moment and the tutor seems to be really excellent (DD's confidence improved already after just 2 lessons). I really hope she won't drop it but do totally understand how demoralising it must be for her to be the only non-native speaker in the A-level class.

Please
or
to access all these features
Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.