The teaching of languages

‘Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.’
It’s not telling tales out of school to admit that the teaching of languages is in peril. The annual survey of language teaching by the British Council seems to get darker year by year, expressing concerns about Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5, and the lack of connection between each of those stages. HEPI’s very own Megan Bowler produced a paper with similarly sorrowful stories.

Breaking down barriers: why do we classify some languages as ‘community’ and others as ‘modern’?

It is claimed that, on average, one in five of school-aged children in Britain have a first language other than English (The Guardian). These languages are often labelled as ‘community languages’ with many of them identified as the ‘languages for the future’ (British Council) in terms of supply and demand.For instance, the top ten ‘languages for the future’ are Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese and Russian, all of which are spoken in communities in Britain. Yet, as the Guardian article and numerous reports point out, support for the community languages in the UK education system, from early years to further and higher education, is seriously lacking.

To ‘WoLLoW’ or not to ‘WoLLoW’, that is the question

Let’s imagine you — or I — have got the chance to a language lesson to a Year 5 or Year 6 class. One alternative is to teach the boys and girls the days of the week in French, or Spanish, an obvious, simple and, perhaps, not naturally interesting task. The other is to teachContinue reading “To ‘WoLLoW’ or not to ‘WoLLoW’, that is the question”

WoLLoW: ‘The teaching of languages in a multilingual society’

On Wednesday 10th November, WoLLoW — World of Languages and Languages of the World — held its inaugural conference at King Edward’s School, Birmingham with support of the Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham and Norwich School. Over 50 teachers and educationalists, not only from Birmingham but all over the country, attended, coming from state and independentContinue reading “WoLLoW: ‘The teaching of languages in a multilingual society’”

A World of Languages and Languages of the World: a fresh approach to language teaching

I have taught MFL in secondary schools for over ten years. Pupils in my classes learn well, enjoy themselves, find success and gain a deeper understanding of the world. They are engaged, there is a buzz and we all come away from my lessons happy: it is going really well! And then they have to choose their A levels, and they stop. Very few of my beloved GCSE German students continue to A level. The pull of STEM subjects is just too powerful for these academic, interested, talented girls and boys.

‘What is the use of Latin, sir?’

Since 1954, the book which has given the greatest insight into education and teaching is, without doubt, How to be Topp by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle. The protagonist Molesworth, the delicate ‘Hello clouds, hell sky’ Fotherington-Thomas, and Sigismund the mad Maths Master have populated the thoughts, dreams and nightmares of generations of teachers. OfContinue reading “‘What is the use of Latin, sir?’”

Idnan, Samraj and the teaching of languages in a multi-racial city

John Claughton · A few days ago I was talking to Idnan, a former pupil of my old school, King Edward’s School, Birmingham. Although, twenty years ago, he became the first Muslim Head of School, he had a disappointing academic career: since he was not bright enough to study Latin and Greek at A level,Continue reading “Idnan, Samraj and the teaching of languages in a multi-racial city”