The Myth Busters

I am really inspired by the spirit, energy and commitment of my languages friends and colleagues on twitter. In response to a radio 4 programme on why learn languages this week, they refused to accept the same old clichés and arguments about the parlous state of language learning within our shores, and through Twitter, mustered themselves for a special edition in the ongoing series of flashmeetings they have planned and been participating in for a while now. I’ve blogged about these flashmeetings before; about what great teacher-owned and teacher-led CPD they are, but this one has a different purpose. There was a real feeling that enough is enough: that the problems flagged up in the programmme have been known to us for many years yet things are getting worse. Inspite of the dedication and commitment of many languages teachers uptake for our subject is slipping through our fingers. I know there are loads of dedicated teachers out there of every subject, but many languages teachers go that extra mile for their students; filling their cars with literature, goodies; realia whilst on holiday to refresh their language skills; in Scotland the annual national teachers’ association (SALT) conference attracts over 400 teachers every year – other similar subject events running alongside it on the same day barely manage 40, so it’s not lack of commitment on their part that is the problem. But what is it?  A few issues were raised last night. Some of them are myths that need busting. When we have a list we’re all happy with we should send it to Radio 4 and a few others. Please add your thoughts and comments -we should take one myth each and flesh out the arguments. Let me know which one you’d like to tackle.

Myth one: Learning a language is harder than any other subject

Myth two: Getting a good grade in a language is harder than in any other subject ( this is not a myth in England , BTW it’s true!)

Myth three: We are just no good at learning languages in UK

Myth four: Why should we waste our time teaching languages to students who can’t even speak, read or write  proper English?

Myth five: It’s pointless trying to learn European languages and we’ve failed at that anyway so make room for Chinese

Myth six: our culture is  supportive of language learning at every level and languages are valued in our schools and society

Myth seven: Why bother? Everyone learns English anyway?

Myth eight: Not everyone is capable of learning a language

Myth nine: Teachers just aren’t making their lessons interesting enough for students to want to choose to stay with the subject

Myth ten: Starting in upper primary is too late – we need to start them learning a second language in nursery.

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About catrionao

I'm a PhD student at Stirling University, studying a school based practice of teacher professional learning. I also do online facilitation for various organisations such as SELMAS and the Strategic Leadership Development Programme.
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One Response to The Myth Busters

  1. noemie says:

    myth 11: learning languages is only useful for academic pupils who will go on to highly-paid (international) employment – the working class kids from deprived areas don’t need to learn them as they won’t use them. (fyi: every child must have the right to understand and learn about other cultures, and that goes through learning a language. Just because the one-size-GCSE doesn’t fit all doesn’t mean that the baby should be thrown out with the bath water)

    myth 12: what use is a foreign language only at GCSE level? it’s not enough to communicate when we visit the foreign country, therefore let’s give up altogether (fyi: what level do you think the majority of Frenchmen and Germans and Spaniards learn English? that’s right! GCSE! and yet they’re not ashamed of claiming they speak English and of using it when they come to the UK or for career progression).

    myth 13: there are too many foreign languages. It’s easy for other countries to choose which foreign language to learn (English), but for us, how can you tell which one you’re likely to need (fyi: most Europeans learn more than one foreign language, simply because they want to understand their neighbours as well as gain access to the anglosphere)

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