However, having just lower back to the study room after 25-12 months destroy, it has struck me that it’s no longer just the perceived trouble of studying a language that has contributed to the decline in language take-up. It’s also the obsession with checking out and evaluation and the ever-in advance consciousness on acquiring GCSE “talents” (basically exam practice strategies) from an early age.
As quickly as college students input school at eleven it’s made clear to them that the overriding reason they may be in faculty is to gather GCSEs and how vital it’s far to begin getting ready for the – exams which are five remote years away, nearly some other 0.33 in their existence. This comes at the fee of engendering an enjoyment of the concern. The USP of languages is that they are extraordinary from some other problem on the curriculum. Yet they go through the same dreary subjugation to GCSE challenge types, mark schemes and grade boundaries as all the relaxation.
A radical reappraisal of the way languages are taught is their most effective hope for revival and, within the case of a few languages, survival. After all, if students know they’re learning a topic that’s going to be more difficult to get an excellent grade in, what else is left to encourage them to take in a language apart from sheer leisure of the challenge?
• As a trainer of French presently working in a secondary college, I could not disagree with the feelings expressed for your article on the perceived threat to trendy languages coaching in this country and accompanying letter (eleven May), although I would nuance and amplify them.
It isn’t virtually the harshness of the marking in public examinations that causes language-learners difficulties, but also the perverse pernicketiness of the various obligations students are required to adopt (pernicketiness that many local audio systems of the language find bizarre and difficult to navigate). More miserable, however, is the crushing banality of the content material of maximum of the language publications presented in faculties: in their desperate (and faulty) pursuit of what younger humans find “applicable” and “interesting”, shackled to the requirement to supply the government’s eye-rolling tedious programme for healthy, upright dwelling, the writers of exam board specifications have additionally emptied the courses of any engaging intellectual content and any requirement that the scholars clearly engage with the tradition of the countries whose languages they are gaining knowledge of. The actual surprise is that any scholars in any respect pick to keep with a current language at faculty past the factor to which it’s miles compulsory.
• As a professional linguist, I totally disagree with the 152 academics who recommend making present day language checks less difficult or marking them greater leniently. Learning a overseas language is by its nature a tough agency and that should honestly be pondered within the examinations by means of which pupils are tested. Similar arguments should no doubt be deployed in terms of, say, physics or chemistry, which could be even more difficult subjects to grasp, but if effort is needed to obtain a stable grounding either in a language or in every other field, so be it. I am surprised to look eminent lecturers arguing in favour of creating inherently difficult subjects ostensibly less difficult. Might your correspondents actually be deprecating the need for attempt?
• The hassle of the decline of language-learning in colleges is stressful. The fact stays, but, that many languages are hard to analyze. One answer, consequently, might be to restore the GCSE that was supplied inside the simplest language spoken all through the world – Esperanto. Whether one desires to use it to talk with the tens of millions of speakers round the sector or as a springboard to research other languages, its merits ought to no longer be unnoticed.