/ Languages at school- did/ didn't you like them and why?
I am an ML teacher: why do people hate my subject so much? is it because it is hard work, irrelevant to pupils' lives, unnecessary?
I have so much fun with languages, I seem to be unable to remember not having fun with them. This could mean I am a geek but I am ok with that.
Thanks for your input.
I studied French to A-level then went on to spend some time in France as part of an ERASMUS exchange at university.
Most of my French teachers were appalling and were determined to wring any enjoyment out of the subject, and one of them was just, well, creepy. I don't think I made it through the entirety of a single lesson at A-level without wandering off in search of something more interesting to do. The reason I enjoyed the language was because all my family holidays were in France so the language felt relevant and interesting.
At O Level I collected languages because I was good at them, at any rate good at reading them, less so at writing, speaking or hearing them, and it was points on the board to compensate for my slightly dodgy sciences. I did Fr Ger 2x English Lat Gk and half way to Russian. I'd have done Sp and It as well if they'd been available. I'm still good at languages, but still much better at reading them than writing, speaking, or hearing them.
But then, I am definitely a geek.
I think people are put off subjects with high start-up costs. They'll embark on things that look easy to start on, like English and Philosophy, and avoid things that look hard, like Russian and maths. I'm afraid the way the education system is set up encourages this.
French was compulsory until I was 13. I dropped it as soon as I could and took biology as an additional science instead. I didn't take Spanish or German as options either. I wish I could speak French or another language fluently but just can't seem to get my head round any more than translations of a few individual words.
Enjoyed Latin, but hated French. (Still managed an A in it, though, back when an A was the highest GCSE grade you could get. ::o)
As to why - I have a speaking voice best described as Joyce Grenfell with a heavy cold. I didn't sound even remotely "local", and every time I opened my mouth I got the p*ss taken something rotten. Being required to perform in front of the whole class in a foreign language came fairly close to my personal definition of hell.
> As to why - I have a speaking voice best described as Joyce Grenfell with a heavy cold.
A glorious description :-)
I have enough problems dealing with English never mind being taught two other languages (German and Welsh). They where not something I was going to use in later life and would have much rather spend the time on doing something that would be useful. Maths, Science, IT etc.
I loved them - I liked the "rules", almost mathematical.
French up to A-level and originally signed on for a science degree involving spending a year in France (I am UK based) but they threw me off the "year in France" bit because my science was not up to scratch! German and Spanish GCSE. Learned a bit of Greek when I lived in Patras for 5 months. I would like to dabble in another one, not so much to learn the language but to enjoy the process. Maybe I will seek out an evening class (I did sign up once for any of beginners' Mandarin, Russian or Japanese at local community college evening classes but the courses never took place, not enough interest, they only had six people show interest across the whole three languages, and three of those people were all actually me! :-/ )
Maybe it's the perceived relevance for kids in school that makes the difference. I certainly didn't think I'd move abroad so languages didn't seem 'useful' at the time. In Germany, English has more relevance; in the media, business and academia - could give the incentive for English learning, doesn't explain why most students are tri-lingual though!
Wish I'd tried harder in German lessons now!
When you see normal primary school age kids switching between 2 or 3 languages fluently you realise that language teaching in the UK is lacking.
Though I also think that the level of English tought in French primary schools isn't that great but at least they are starting them young.
It does seem that some UK primaries are catching on to this - the primary in my village seems to start them young.
I think quite a lot of people have an idea that 'English is the main language anyone needs to know so why bother with other languages' but in my opinion learning another language gives a person all sorts of skills, not least in communicating with people in their own language.
We sweated blood learning about grammar, and being jumped on if we used the wrong tense. Yet very often people who are said - rightly - to speak good, or at least understandable, English, they are actually all over the place. 'I go to London tomorrow'. 'I go to the Lake district last week, she is very beautiful' etc etc - we understand perfectly what is meant and can communicate.
With hindsight I think there should be far more emphasis on vocab and speaking; if you now what the word for a shop is, and where, you can say 'ou magasin?' and 90% cooperative French people will understand. With practice students will naturally begin to infer more knowledge of grammar, and as long as their enthusiasm is maintained and they can feel progress being made they will start to take more interest in rules to extend their capability.
If I ever acquire a boisterous small kitten, I'm going to call it George. ::o)
But, getting back on topic, I think one of the other reasons I enjoyed Latin far more than French was that, since we were unlikely to ever have to use it, we could skip the useful-but-deathly-boring everyday bits and read something that was actually interesting.
GCSE French: "You are in a cafe. Order a ham sandwich and a cup of tea. Ask for and pay the bill, then ask for directions to the bus station."
"Easy is the descent to Avernus,
Night and day black Dis's door gapes open,
But to retrace your steps and escape to heaven's air
This is the task, this the toil."
Surely it wouldn't have actually hurt to include one or two items of French Lit on the syllabus? Or an essay on some quirk of local culture? Or at least something more interesting than the bus station!
Ah - we did quite a bit of French lit, though perhaps that was A-level, come to think of it...
I did a bit of Latin in 6th form, with a woman who had a strong Dundee accent (if I remember rightly) - so strong that I can still remember some of her pronunciations.
Also did a tiny bit of Russian, of which all I can remember is 'it is a lamp'. Which will be handy if I'm ever interrogated by the KGB.
I did German at GCSE and was getting along well until my teacher left and the replacement couldn't control the wilder kids in the class and just didn't enthuse me.
Also, I couldn't really see why I was learning German. As a family, we went to France at least twice a year but we weren't given the option despite other classes doing french.
In the Pyrenees a couple of years back I could really have done with speaking a bit of French.
>"didn't you like them and why?"
The subject required too much of my very limited memory resources.
On the other hand technical drawing was virtually all visual processing.
You' gotta make the most out of what you' got and run with how your brain's wired.
I really enjoyed them, although I had a couple of crap teachers that did put me off for a while. One French teacher was particularly surly and never taught us anything other than being quiet because 'I 'ave a 'eadache', due to too much vin rouge no doubt.
As we discussed at a recent BBQ I grew up speaking gaelic and my daughter is fluent in the same. She seems to really enjoy languages and has been learning French since about P5. Having good teachers makes a huge difference and being able to use the language on a day to day basis also helps to keep it fresh.
> You' gotta make the most out of what you' got and run with how your brain's wired.
Agree with this - if I could have dropped sciences and maths I would have. I got reasonable grades but I can't think that I've used any of what I learnt in those subjects since I sat the exams.
A few thoughts:
Chatting is not easily quantifiable for exam purposes. Like anyone else in today's culture stats are required from us. I love chatting though. Valid point.
Lit would be great, however how much factual knowledge one requires to understand it is always a problem. Often those lofty thoughts are perceived as not relevant and buying a ticket more so. Yet again valid point.
Primary. Could that be a red herring? How much time does a primary teacher already stretched to the limit re syllabus has to deal with a ML? How much proficiency does s/he require to confidently deliver lessons in the target language? In a nutshell, does the UK have the expertise to deliver? Another Valid point.
Posts seem to highlight one thing, everyone wants something different from it. How do we best marry all the diverging expectations? It is obvious that our cocktail thus far is not very palatable.
Finally, French is the first language being taught solely due to tradition (and to a trained workforce in that language). What language should be taught always leads to disputes more than debate.
Keep them coming folks.
It seems unclear. Your points are valid not my thoughts on them!
Genuine chuckle at this!
As for my insight on to why I hated languages at school... head of department was a perverted old man, my teacher was wet and yampy - fresh out of teacher college and had no concept as to how to control 10-13 year old boys. after she left with her nervous breakdown (no joke she had a nervous breakdown and ran out of our class crying never to return to the school) we had another useless teacher, I self taught myself the basics needed to get by on holidays after leaving school, I learn 0-none in school. as soon as I could I dumped the subject and retreated either to a music rehearsal room to play or the engineering lab to build my mini steam engine.
I did French and German to GCSE but I can't say I ever really got any great joy from learning languages.
I have failed to learn Danish despite living with a Dane and visiting often because the pronunciation is hard and it seems fairly pointless when they all speak great English.
"yampy"? New word for me! What does it mean?
> Ah - we did quite a bit of French lit, though perhaps that was A-level, come to think of it...
> I did a bit of Latin in 6th form, with a woman who had a strong Dundee accent (if I remember rightly) - so strong that I can still remember some of her pronunciations.
> Also did a tiny bit of Russian, of which all I can remember is 'it is a lamp'. Which will be handy if I'm ever interrogated by the KGB.
It ain't a lot different from the English though, is it? ))). It would be the FSB btw, not the KGB. )))
Pah! Always with the details!
And too much grammar, I think conversational languages would be better.
I now think languages are great and would like to speak loads, but find them hard esp. Polish!!!
Like to have a few words when on holiday abroad.
French teacher found me very frustrating as she knew I could do it, but I wasn’t interested.
I did French o-level hampered by the fact we had 4 teachers in 3 years. Got it on the second attempt. Now I'm using memrise to learn it again I wish I had been invented then www.memrise.com
>> I can't think that I've used any of what I learnt in those subjects since I sat the exams.
I realised first realised maths could be useful when drawing circles on a BBC micro.
(The dialect in question of Basic had no circle command. But if you sweep a line through 360 degrees and use trigonometry to generate a series of xy paris for the end, you get a circle. I was quite proud of being able to do that when I was 13. ::o)
Bollox, "pairs" not "paris". Must learn to type.
I always thought learning other languages was a waste of time, until I ended up living in France AND having to work for a living; then I was glad to have the remnants of my GCSE !
Perhaps schools should offer languages that will give more in the way of job possibilities than the traditional French and German ? The number of predicted Chinese visitors alone would justify pushing hard the inclusion of Mandarin Chinese in all state secondary schools.
I did French and I just couldn't be bothered, though I now wish I had.
I feel the way it was taught was bad. We didn't do any conversing in French with each other in class so there was no mental need to learn it. There was a lot of copying vocabulary off the board which nobody could be bothered to memorise after the class.
Sometimes we'd watch a video of French people speaking, but no one could understand it as it was spoken too fast (natural speed) and with stronger accents. Then we'd be told about the merits of listening to them speak to get used to it, but then we'd never see/hear anything for months so never had the chance to do that.
It was all done as if we would get material in class, then have to go home and learn it. But with no one to converse with there is no trigger for the mind to learn the language (in my experience).
A part of me would love to get it under my belt, maybe one of those Rosetta Stone types where you mainly speak it to learn.
> We sweated blood learning about grammar, and being jumped on if we used the wrong tense. Yet very often people who are said - rightly - to speak good, or at least understandable, English, they are actually all over the place. 'I go to London tomorrow'. 'I go to the Lake district last week, she is very beautiful' etc etc - we understand perfectly what is meant and can communicate.
Yes, this. I was taught French late (ie starting at secondary school), focussing on grammar, and my teachers with fairly English accents, and highly staged tape recordings.
It's not how my brain works. In practice, I'll try a French phrase and see if it "sounds right". Not perfect, but usually understandable, and a lot quicker than working out the tense. And spending more time speaking French with fluent speakers soon sharpens it up and increases the accuracy again.
And as Rob says above, it was communicating with PhD students & post docs who spoke pretty technically poor English, and realising it was still understandable with just a little effort, that gave me more confidence to bluff in French.
The result is that I can now do a passable French accent, intonation and gestures (and the same in Italian, which I learnt a little of much later) and do everyday shopping, etc, but have an appalling lack of vocabulary. And I can still decline common verbs in three tenses (only in French or Latin...), which is rather less useful.
On what works - I've seen a couple of bilingual theatre productions aimed at kids that were both great, and the general approach (speak in one language, then repeat in the other - or explain with pantomime - but in a mixed up, fairly fluid way) seems to be reproduced in the French club my 7 year old goes to after school.
Fast forward some 12 years & I ended up in France as a postdoc & needed to learn French pretty quickly (the other scientists spoke English but few of the technicians & no one outside work, including the guys at the local branch of the French alpine club I wanted to climb & ski with).
I'm again in France and after several years can speak & read the language reasonably well but struggle to write 'good' French
I just never saw the point of learning a language for theory I'm afraid. I was terrible at French because I didn't visit the country as a child and couldn't see the point in learning something I wouldn't use much. Basically I found devoting more time to mathematics much more interesting.
As it goes, I learnt passable Japanese quickly enough once I was living in Japan so it can't be because of lack of ability.
I was alright at French at school but dropped arts/languages/humanities in favour of maths/phys/chem after GCSE. I found the classes boring and pretty irrelevant. I can hardly remember the structure but I think It was quite traditional; declining verbs and all the rest. The surprising thing is I can just about get by and could probably be reasonably good.
By contrast I started learning Mandarin about 5 years ago one night a week through the Confucius School. Obviously I am more mature and learning by choice etc etc, but I really think that the way the language is taught is far superior to how French was taught to me. It is a simpler language in many ways, like Spanish, but we are taught a few rules of grammar in each class and some new vocabulary, we then explore that snippet of grammar by plugging in different vocab and doing role plays etc. Well that is how the classes started now we just sit around reading the papers and watching TV, so it must have worked.
An easy example would be:
zher ge _____ you _____ you _____ which means: this (thing) is (something) and (something complimentary property)
you could complete the sentence: restaurant, cheap, makes good food. Student, diligent, intelligent.......
Anyone else do that, or is it just me being a geek?
Where are your trained mandarin teachers? You can offer what you have staff for. What happens to the teachers whose language fell out of fashion? Do they learn a new language age 30-40-50? Easier said than done. These are just thoughts.
Your point is valid in the short term. It takes years however to be able to teach a language to the mass. By then do we know if chinese will still be that important. Very big decisions to be taken indeed.
> Where are your trained mandarin teachers? You can offer what you have staff for. What happens to the teachers whose language fell out of fashion? Do they learn a new language age 30-40-50?
If the language they teach is no longer relevant then, yes, the teacher should learn a new language - it happens quite a lot with computer programmers.
you’ll struggle to get over the fact that most teenagers’ horizons aren’t much further than the end of the street.
It’s always going to be a struggle to go from only knowing English to the more (seemingly) complex structures of French & German; the idea that there is more than one word for “the” seems to really baffle some people.
From my experience ML teaching at school was shyte.
A lot of people seemed to struggle with the fact that “sentences were all in the wrong order, like.....” Which, unless you introduce some basic grammar, you never really understand why, how it works and how you work with it.
The first couple of years of ML teaching seemed to be all about remembering phrases, but without learning the language rules/structure you’re only left with: phrase ~ phrase.
I’m not sure what you mean by Germany does not do it that much better.....
English is easier to learn as a foreign language. The whole grammar structure is generally much simpler (from an everyday language point of view) add to that the cultural prevalence of American culture, film, music etc. and, well here we are.....
> Where are your trained mandarin teachers? You can offer what you have staff for. What happens to the teachers whose language fell out of fashion? Do they learn a new language age 30-40-50? Easier said than done. These are just thoughts.
> Your point is valid in the short term. It takes years however to be able to teach a language to the mass. By then do we know if chinese will still be that important. Very big decisions to be taken indeed.
Forward planning ? Why should teachers be guaranteed a job for life ? If their subject becomes redundant, they retrain, everyone else in the workforce has to !
France is in terminal decline and French can no longer claim to be the language of diplomacy. China represents a quarter of humanity, I think it would be a safe bet that in the long term, learning Chinese will be more beneficial than French !
Just my two Euro-cents worth !
I think it just means you're naturally interested in languages.
When I was at school I wasn't especially interested in them. Did French and Latin to 'O' Grade. Until the age of 16 I had never travelled abroad, hadn't met many people from overseas and nothing had really sparked my interest in learning what was on offer. I had (and still have) an irrational fascination with Russian, and for the last 20-odd years I've been very interested in Gaelic, but neither of those were options at the time.
Now I live in a full-bilingual household (wife is French), speak to our kids mostly in French, and really wish I'd paid more attention to the genders of nouns during those classes at school. ;-)
I've managed to reach a level of Russian of which I'm rather proud (and that's hard because I hate myself) by following this advice. Motivation is gained primarily by having friends who are native speakers, so I learn stuff to suit being able to speak with them.
When I learnt French at school it was basically a dry, academic subject, with no relevance to me or my life, taught by disinterested teachers who gave no thought as to how to capture our imaginations. I got a CSE grade 5 after 2 years of study. I had a look at a Russian GCSE paper the other day and, after 18 months of teaching myself, I would struggle to see where I would drop a mark. That tells its own story. I don't know what language learning at school is like now.
An important point that somebody raised is about looking like a tw*t. You have to make yourself look like a tw*t to learn a foreign language, and if there's one group of people that don't like looking tw*ts it's teenagers.
FWIW, one of my Russian friends is a high school English teacher and she has the same problem trying to motivate Russian kids to learn English as you seem to with English kids and French - and bear in mind that Russians really need to learn English, but Brits don't need to learn any foreign languages because everyone speaks English...
Fair enough about retraining- I take no issues with this.
However, it takes more to learn a language than programming...that's why computers are still shite at translating accurately.
Agreed again re French hence my bringing it in and saying it's just tradition (although I have no other languages to teach recognised by officialdom - needs a degree and residency to teach).
Re Chinese. Why not Spanish, Arabic... It will still cost a lot to train mandarin speakers. I am not sure that governments will be ready to take such a radical step when they still have lots of trained workforce. Too costly and controversial!
Except that, France is our neighbour and part of the political block to which we still belong. It will always be easier to nip over there than to go to China. Not that it wouldn't be useful or interesting to know Chinese, but the usefulness of French for most of us, I suspect, will not be tied to its former status as the international language of diplomacy. It's where we go for holidays or for work, it being easier to go there than to the other side of the world. As it happens, I have just tried to help my step-son out by writing to a French university, in French (sort of)to try to find out what is going on with his Erasmus application. And I got a reply! And not so long ago, on a family holiday doing the GR20, my French was spectacularly useful when it turned out that the booking system had failed and each arrival at a refuge demanded robust negotiation skills to get us a bed. (I remember in particular, arrival at Refuge Petra Piana. It has been pouring for two hours. Our three teenagers are exhausted, tired and wet. As is everyone else. We have booked five beds, There is only one vacant. The kitchen is standing room only. I say first in English, then in French, then in German words to the effect "So which of you haven't booked?" then I call the warden and finally get us all a bed.)
I don't understand why learning European languages is considered difficult. I've learnt French, German and Danish over the years, to the point where I have been mistaken for a local, and regarded each, first of all, as a mountain of words to learn. That is a task, to be sure, but it is not conceptually complicated. It is like trying to be good at running. I do understand though, why people may fail to see the point and not be motivated to bother. My parents were both French teachers, my first wife is German, my daughters spoke only German for the first years of their lives, and my mum has lived in France for the last fifteen years. I lived in Zuerich and Grenoble for six years. It is so much more fun if you can speak the local language, so I would start each day with some learned words and grammar, then try it out. After a few years, you "hear" the grammar and the word endings, cease to have to learn it by rote and stop saying "just in cases", but you can get an awfully long way with terrible grammar. You just have to get in there and get going.
I do think that there were more school trips abroad in those days, it was probably easier for teachers to take kids away in those days, group passports, cheap coaches and ferries and parents who would tell their kids off if they did something daft, not sue the school. We had a week in North France and a day trip to Paris, it makes it real and puts it into context.
We also had a French exchange and a German exchange every year or 2, pupils of the same age would stay at each others houses for a week and go to each others school. I didn't take part, but my brother and sister did, so again that was a real use of what I had learnt.
My niece has been learning French since infant school, they have to give primary teachers preparation and marking time away from their class, so the school employs 1 language teacher to teach all the primary children. Maybe that is something you might enjoy if you like the enthusiasm of younger children, look for PPA cover jobs. She enjoys it. I agree its great if they learn young, although I started at 11. I liked having a new subject at secondary school.
> "yampy"? New word for me! What does it mean?
Apparently the same in French and German according to Google translate.
Anyway, quite a common usage in the Black Country, as in "turn that bloody Tweet of the Day off, it's sending the cat yampy"
One of our neighbours. Aberdeen's a lot closer to Norway than it is to France. In fact, Aberdeen's closer to Stavanger than it is to London.
I disagree, both are about syntax and grammar structures without which things fall apart completely. I was a total disaster at french, spanish and computer coding as i could never understand the 'scaffolding' that you had to build on.
And where I am, France is closer than most of the UK, including London.
But the same point can be widened to a number of European languages - the Scandinavian ones, French, Dutch and German. Once you know one Germanic one, the others follow much more easily.
> A glorious description :-)
I wonder how many are old enough to know JG?
(I agree, a nice description, )
I lasted for a year doing both French and German, but really struggled, with the grammar, the tenses, motivation....
Trying to get through to some of those kids in Romford was pretty disheartening ;-(
I don't think this is true. I live in Finland and you can't graduate school (or indeed university) without passing Swedish (second national language) and even those who really aren't very interested in school still seem to learn English. There are really very very few young Finns who don't have at least OK English and the majority are rather good. Many then learn a third foreign language at school too - my wife for example is fluent in English and French as well as having rusty but serviceable Swedish.
Anyway school doesn't begin until you are seven and I don't think they start Swedish until they are in fourth grade (so 11), and other languages in the years after that. My son is going into 3rd grade in August and they still won't be doing Swedish this year.
> As to why - I have a speaking voice best described as Joyce Grenfell with a heavy cold.
We've met and I don't recall that.
My school was tough for anyone who actually wanted to learn about languages. Some of our teachers got us enthused and on-side, but few took much away from the classes. I did French for two years and learned hee haw. Oddly the small number of kids who did German fared better. One thing I don't recall was being told about the benefits of learning a language beyond being able to go abroad.
If I had to identify one thing from school French that made me look forward to class it would have to be be Mmme Gault's arse.
> If I had to identify one thing from school French that made me look forward to class it would have to be be Mmme Gault's arse.
I woul not be able to enthuse you then!
Yampy - Wet, Not worth the skin you are stood in, weak and easy to manipulate. Waste of Rations. any of the above!
Really enjoyed languages at school but felt you needed more idea of grammar in English to help learning the other languages. Did Latin before German which really helped with the basic grammar needed to suss cases and agreements. Teachers were good and being top set in selective school reduced the need for crowd control. I liked the scaffolding parts and found Russian hardest as we didn't work on the grammar but just rote learned phrases. Still got an A
I wished I'd learnt earlier and stuck with German as I find it a more logical language, being from the same root as English.
But regarless of natural ability I think kids should get a full grounding in science especially. It just informs so much about lifes choices, from diets to vaccinitions.. a scientifically literal society is healthier.
But I am much better naturally at the sciences. I got a D in GCSE French and A* in dual sciences. But I'm still glad I took one language to 16 as it was compulsary. I find it embarassing how widely spoken second languages are in europe compared to myself and many other brits.
How can we go beyond embarrassment though?
Not long before it becomes a global competition issue for our youngsters. I would argue it is already but have little proof of it then general perception from my many foreign friends.
should obviously read "than". Accept mu humble apologies.
I enjoyed languages at school and went on to do a BA Modern languanges, which inculded a year in France and Spain. I only ever use my French on holiday now and on the occasional business trip to francophone Africa but having lived in France for 3 years and the ability to communicate in different languages has had a huge influence on my life and my own development as a person. My son is more inclined to sciences but he enjoys French and I want him to continue with it because I want him to be an open-minded person with a friendly approachable nature, which is so important nowadays.
By the way I was unimpressed with the careers advisors who I met at school and college; on hearing that I was a linguist they all said "Oh, you could be a teacher, an interpreter or a translator." Not one mentioned any other career, they all demonstrated spectacular lack of imagination or knowledge.
At my eldest sons school, Dallam hign in Milnthorpe, they do a spanish and french language form room. He is in the spanish one and they are only allowed to speak english in the class if unsure of the spanish word and then only for clarification. It works very well as they are learning conversational skills as well as the language / grammar structure. they also have the option of doing some of their other clases in spanish.
> How can we go beyond embarrassment though?
> Not long before it becomes a global competition issue for our youngsters. I would argue it is already but have little proof of it then general perception from my many foreign friends.
Probably depends, we're lucky in that we're english.. in science it's not a big issue at all to be honest.
But in other fields it must be an issue in the global economy.
I see this echoed a lot and it definitely reflects my experience (I did French and German at GCSE and did poorly in both of them). I just wasn't interested and never had my imagination caught.
The reason to learn a language should be 'because its interesting'. I might never use the history I learned, and the glaciation I did in Geography does not come in that useful in day to day life but I enjoyed it, because I had passionate and talented teachers who passed that on to their students.
Now I live in France, and am picking up the language quite well and am grateful for those GCSE lessons. However I really enjoy the process of learning unlike before, and especially the whole latin-origin thing when I pick up bits of Italian and Spanish, and see similarities, as well as shared origins with English. Its enjoyable to learn new things, great to converse with someone in their own language and its surely a good brain exercise (studies have shown that multi-lingual people have lower incidences of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimers).
I have a couple of friends who are interpreters and they both speak 7 different languages each and continue to want to learn more. They and I believe that once you've learned your second language, its easier to learn the 3rd and 4th because you know the concepts - so many people speak their mother tongue without knowing the rules (or even how to describe them) which is half the battle.
Other friends in Belgium and Holland with young children have them speaking Dutch, French and English equally well at 4-5 years old with ease - and this is just because its not seen as freaky, its just normal in that part of the world since in an afternoon's drive you can pass through 3 different language speaking regions. In the UK, when you only get to use your second language in a classroom, or the odd school trip rather than real life environments, its both harder to reinforce and less relevant.
I did French from age 9 and was quite keen on it since some of my family are French speakers. I can remember walking home from school with a group of pals trying to speak as much French as we could to each other. However, that's not the only other language in the family.
When I reached secondary school, French was the compulsory second language. There was a Gaelic Department but I was not allowed to study it. The Gaelic Department existed only to serve native speaker hosteller from Harris and the Uists. I protested this for 5 years, doing no work whatsoever in French classes. Only on sixth year did I get access to the Gaelic Department and I did the French O Grade as well.
Now all has changed and the same school offers a choice of French, German or Gaelic.
Speaking to young people now, there are ridiculous numbers of them who believe that everything out there is in English and there is no point. They simply do not get it that more than one way of expressing what is in our world is useful and enlightening.
Wish I could have taken German ,as I find it a rather interesting language.
We are after all ,speaking a bastardised and polluted form of Saxon ,are we not?
I have a few comments, some of which may be relevant, some less so.
My school dictated that I took GCSE French. I disliked this.
My parents both speak fluent French, my mother is a French teacher who attempted throughout my childhood to turn every event into an impromptu French lesson. Cringeworthy.
My actual French teachers at high school were all women who were on some level friends with my mother. Social death.
Speaking of my French teachers, my memory of French at school is of weekly ritualized humiliation as a variety of teachers insisted that I not only spoke to them in a foreign language I was none to comfortable with, but that I did so publicly too. Whilst my voice was breaking.
Furthermore it appeared to me during those sessions that it wasn't so important to say anything meaningful or relevant, but so long as you made uncomfortable choking noises in your throat occasionally as you spoke, you were doing fine. I later concluded that my problem with GCSE French was that it was 'learning to pass an exam' as opposed to actually learning to speak a language. Insult to injury.
I hated learning French at school. Passionately.
It's sad that you felt this way. Do you have any idea why? I'm assuming that while you were, as you see it, humiliating yourself speaking out loud in class there were another 20-odd kids your age in the same situation. Such a massive advantage to grow up with two languages, but you kicked against it. I'm not having a go, I'm sure many of us could identify points in our childhood where we didn't make anything of an advantageous situation, just curious about your strong aversion.
I was always a bit rubbish at French at school, but did okay in my GCSEs. Managed to hitch to the south of France a couple of times, can sort out renting a gite in Font, etc.
In my mid/late 20s I discovered I loved the Indian subcontinent, so learnt some Urdu/Hindi. Being able to ask the way to the best kulfi stall in Old Delhi is way more exciting than asking for frites in La Rochelle. Trying to chat with a rickshaw wallah or Karakoram porter isn't just satisfying, they actually really really appreciate you making the effort, even when you mangle the language (I usually do). It makes up for all the hard, boring work which learning a language entails, and which didn't seem quite so worth it with French. Fundamentally, I didn't want to enter into French life that much, whereas I do with India.
I always quite liked it and kept German on as part of my degree. But in practical terms, with the spread of English as the international language of business, it has only been slightly useful.
On the other hand, my year studying abroad was worth the lot of it as an experience.
Practically though for reasons of funding and logistics, a mass system has to limit itself to some languages.
I would love to offer each child a lesson in the language of their choice but ultimately I can only do so in the languages I know... as a matter of fact only in those I am recognised as being "qualified" enough. Growing up beside a border does not apparently qualify as residency or has any value in the eyes of the system!
To those for whom French was cringeworthy: one of the aims of ML is working on self confidence...if you can utter sounds to your mates in something you are unsure about, surely you're growing up? Possibly of even more value than having a basic conversational French.
Agreed on teaching to the exam... blame your accountable/ outcome culture for it. We try to do 2 probably antithetic things: 1) teach a language- aim for communication 2) pass an exam- be dragons about accuracy
As a non native speaker with 20-odd years of learning English under my belt, I must say it hugely depends on your teacher. I had a number of them throughout primary/secondary school, some better than the others, but it wasn't until I invested into after school lessons with native speaker (a rather funny 50+ spinster) that I started enjoying the whole process and even started to love grammar exercises. She did make sure we 'played games' when learning vocabulary and that seemed to have made the difference.
Having said that - motivation is still the key; I spent couple of years learning Hindi (Indian paypal), learnt Russian while at uni but never really stuck with it to be able to say I'm fluent.
Currently trying to convince myself I wanna go back to learning Spanish but college courses even with native speakers tend to be quite boring and very very slow.
Some years ago I went to a meeting in Germany at which my German Italian and Spanish counterparts were at, the meeting was held totally in english. That night after the meeting we went out for a meal, at the end of the meal the German guy says “What do you call a person that can speak three languages?”, the Spaniard says “I know, Trilingual”. Yes says the German, then asks “What do you call a person that can speak two languages?”. The Italian quickly says “Bilingual”. Yes says the German guy, and then asks “What do you call someone that can only speak one language?”. Blank looks all around, then the German says “British”. Oh, such hilarity, as everyone laughed at his joke. But the irony of it all was the joke was all in English, and they all got it. Embarrassing to say the least.
I lived in Zuerich for several years. Swiss German sounded very harsh to me when I first arrived, not to mention bamboozling, but as soon as I got to know people who I liked who spoke it, I stopped thinking of it in that way.
I hated French - it just seemed to be Marie-Claude going to the suopermarket with an ever longer shopping list. And what's the point in speaking French when French people are so muchg better qualified to do so? Latin and Greek, however, were great; with no need to waste time speaking to dead people, I was soon reading the likes of Vergil and Aeschylus in the original - brilliant!
i didnt. i should have. i did agricultural studies instead, which has probably helped in some way im not aware of - but im sure thai or russian would have helped more.
French at school was very patchy. The enjoyment or otherwise of it was entirely down to the teacher. I must have had 5 or 6 different ones but the only one whose lessons have left any lingering memories is Harry Mirfin. French with him was very enjoyable....yes, we did grammar, but it wasn't "dry" and we always had our lessons structured in interesting ways. This waas "O" level days, and, judging by the "worksheets" that my kids brought home at various times, HM's lessons were far more varied and interestging than the norm seems to be today.
I've used my (rusty and ungrammatical) French a fair bit in France but I'm far more comfortable using it in Francophone Africa or other places where French is a second language: I just blatt on there without worrying about grammar too, and notice that a lot of the people I talk to are also not worrying aout grammar.
I do think it's important if you're working or living somewhere to at least make an effort to do some basic communication in the local language. So my Norwegian is pretty reasonable (when I lived there I was twice mistaken by taxi drivers for an Icelander and it gave me great satisfaction to know that they hadn't immediately clocked me as a Brit).
I learned a bit of Mandarin when based out of Singapore but that's really rusty now. My Russian's coming on (I'm now on my 4th 3-5 week stint on Sakhalin in the last 2 years)....one of the bar staff at my local said the other week that my Russian's already better than that of most of the expats here, some of whome have been here 8 years! That's not to say it's *good*....just that the vast majority of the other expats here don't know much more than "please" or "thank you".
I studied French and German at secondary school in years 7-9. I'm now 22 and have forgotten all of it. (Nearly)
In my opinion, we were started far too late on it. By then I had already decided what I wanted to do in my life (computing related stuff), so I concentrated on that.
If my primary school had done more to teach us about the world we lived in, then I'd have been more motivated to learn the languages that other countries use.
I always found languages easy, and did a degree in French and Russian. However, I did find the way they taught languages at school to be a bit ridiculas. Why did i need to spend weeks learning to describe my school uniform?! Who ever did that in real life? Also, why did I need to learn to book a double room in a hotel when i was 12 years old?! I don't know if it has changed, but if stuff was more relevant then that might help.
I did a few french classes for some british kids in a ski centre in Switzerland at one stage, and I got them having 'banter' in French. Gave them a dictionary, we worked out as a group how to gently slag each other off in a friendly way. They were 13 year old boys I was teaching. They loved it!
I am a freelance instructor now, and spend a large part of my working year guiding French groups in Scotland on the mountains, it gets me so much work. I think many people don't realise that it is hugely useful no matter what sphere of work you are in, you don't just have to be a teacher or translator.
Totally agree with this too. Apparently our brains change around age 10 or 11 and we can't learn languages the way children do after this age. Also, we start to get really self concious around this age, where as in primary kids will be much more willing to try and and say things without feeling silly.
I remember French being compulsory in School and Spanish being optional for those students who were in the higher learning categories i.e. those expected to get at least a B in French at GCSE.
I did French GCSE enjoyed it though having an Irish French teacher trying to teach a class full of kids from Liverpool wasn't a great move by the school. Understanding each other in English was hard enough!!
Now I can't speak a word - The reason out of practice. In the 13 years since leaving school I have been to one French speaking country once.
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