Owen Barritt (hmmm_tea) wrote,
Owen Barritt
hmmm_tea

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Language Education

Teach languages, primaries told

This seems like something people have been saying for years.

I can see the reasons for removing it as a compulsory subject for GCSEs, but it does seem a shame to cut back on language education when as far as I can see foreign languages are something we are particularly weak at as a nation. Perhaps including this in the primary education is the way to counteract this.

I remember when I started languages at secondary school and it was like going back and starting primary again. When I first learnt to read the books I was given were mindnumbingly tedious (ie "Jane has a dog", etc, etc), but when you get past that stage and have a reasonable vocabulary you get to cover more interesting stuff. Then when you go to secondary school you get to start that all over again in a different language. Learning to count again, albeit in a different language, when you're 11 is a bit demoralising.

I think when you start your first additional language at that age, the difference in your level of vocabulary between your mother tongue and the new language is so big that you don't really see where it's going to go. Perhaps then it would be better to introduce this earlier so the gap is not so wide? Also, I imagine with the difference in languages when you get to secondary stage there must be a greater degree of "unlearning" of rules from your mother tongue that are no-longer valid in the new language. Would this then also be easier to deal with earlier, so that the foundations of the second language were already in place by the time these rules were learnt in the first?

I think from my experience of school that the comments about languages being seen as pointless seem a fair summary of what I saw from my language classes. Perhaps they were even pointless. Given the short space of time they were studied was there even enough learnt to make any use of the subject? I've got a reasonably good GCSE in German, but I would be the first to admit I have never known enough about the language to make much use of it (and now I've forgotten a lot of what I learnt). OK, people can get a lot out of them but studying them at A-level and beyond, but the vast majority of people don't.

Comparing this to other subjects, most seem to give you enough background by that level that you might be able to apply them to a limited extent. Is this just a case of language education being held back by the later start?

Then again, I seem to be focusing on vocabulary here. However, that did seem to be the main focus of my language education together with general notions of sentance structure. Things like translation skills and grammar were just brushed over as far as I can remember. Was that just bad teaching or lack of time? I only have experience of one secondary language education, so I wouldn't really know.

All in all, it seems as if languages at primary level would be a good thing.

However, what is the cost of this? How do you make the extra time to fit this in? What gets less coverage?
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