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Frank Hovis

Modern language teaching collapsing

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Oh woes.  The usual guff from the wooly of mind trying to justify their degree with this the best IMO:

 

Jean Coussins, a crossbench peer and joint chair of the group, said: "We are complacent. In the 21st Century speaking only English, is as much of a disadvantage as speaking no English at all."

 

What absolute piffle. English is the language of the educated world and the language of business, aviation, shipping, computers etc.

I have worked for German and Swiss companies without being able to speak German and it was not a disadvantage.  Educated people the world over speak English.

It is only worth learning a foreign language if you have a specific need for or interest in it, such as @DTMark wanting to live in Italy or a friend who married a German woman and wanted to be able to chat to his in-laws.

If you don't have that specific need then how would you select what language to learn? If you don't speak English then that's the obvious one but if you do then you're just picking one at random in the hope that it may be vaguely useful at some future point.

It however won't be.  As if you end up needing to speak a foreign language, and by chance it happens to be one you did at school, then you will need to have intensive tuition because you will need to be able to speak it a damn sight better than those mangled pronounciations that gained you a C at GCSE back when you were sixteen.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47421735

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I've recently moved to the south of france and I am in a pickle without knowing any french, although I am taking classes to learn. 

People in shops will tell you in very good English that they don't speak English but then will actually speak to you in bits of English later. 

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Random thoughts as I ha a bad nights sleep

- The best way to learn a foreign language is to give live their. 1 yearin X will have you speaking and understanding the language bettern than a 3 year degree.

- UKs foreign language teachers are, as a whole, lousy. I had a french teacher who could not speak french. We found out when a half french kidf started, sat down, she said something to  him in french (not being aware he could speak french - his name was Fred Bottomley, something totally english), he replied back How are you? Where did you learn to speak french, its terrible? On hearing this, the teacher walked out of the school, then and there as shed been rumbled.

- mrs spy is bililangual french n Italian i.e. grew up speaking both and had lessons taught in both at school. She also speaks English (obviously) and Spanish. Her comment/advice on learnign a foreign lanague in English education systems is - Dont.

- If you think the annoying crowds of italian and spanish teenagers, turning up and learning english, language is bad - just wait til you here a native speakers comment on an english language teachers french.

- The radio was going on about a small business levy - to help Shazza speak language. Thats shit. The main spendings in UK shops are Chinese and Asians. The most you get from mainland Europeans is a packet of sweeties.

- Which language do we learn and why? By numbers theres only 2 that make sense- Mandarin or Spanish. The rest of European languages dont get a look in.

 

 

 

1 hour ago, assetrichcashpoor said:

I've recently moved to the south of france and I am in a pickle without knowing any french, although I am taking classes to learn. 

People in shops will tell you in very good English that they don't speak English but then will actually speak to you in bits of English later. 

Moved FT?

In which case, throw yourself into it. Youll be known as the stupid Englishman but if you are spending money they wont mind.

And theyll send their kids out to practise their English.

Youll be abel to have a conversation (limited) in 6 months.

 

 

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3 minutes ago, spygirl 🏆 said:

Which language do we learn and why? By numbers theres only 2 that make sense- Mandarin or Spanish. The rest of European languages dont get a look in.

The numbers basis is however daft.

Learn Mandarin Chinese so you can converse with a billion Chinese peasants about farming.

Learn Spanish so you can knock on any door in downtown Bogota and have a chat.

Firms that want translators want people who speak it as a native; properly bilingual people.  Not someone who has learned it in a classroom.

The natural career for a modern languages graduate is teaching modern languages in school or university; it's a closed and pointless loop of imitating badly something that millions of people already do perfectly.

And if you look at Europe there are something like twenty languages so whatever you learn you will still be unable to speak to 90% of Europeans in their native language.

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We had two French teachers.

One was a Kylie size dolly with magnetic charm. She came and sat with us individually. Can still smell her perfume if I close my eyes. She was brilliant.

The other was a big bad tempered bloke with thick black glasses, whose wife had just died.

He just turned up the volume on his open-reel to eleven, so all we heard was distortion, Longmans via Jimi Hendrix.

He was crap.

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17 minutes ago, Bedrag Justesen said:

We had two French teachers.

One was a Kylie size dolly with magnetic charm. She came and sat with us individually. Can still smell her perfume if I close my eyes. She was brilliant.

The other was a big bad tempered bloke with thick black glasses, whose wife had just died.

He just turned up the volume on his open-reel to eleven, so all we heard was distortion, Longmans via Jimi Hendrix.

He was crap.

Ill be honest.

I learnt more French in 6 months sat in a hotel room watching the odd french grumble flicks then I ever did at school.

Of course my conversational french is limited to boob size, slwoer or faster, and if she wants wants it up the wrong un.

 

 

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I am with Frank on this subject.

In my experience the teaching of foreign languages in the UK education system is dire. Most O and A level students never become sufficiently proficient to use it for anything other than as a tourist. In part I think that is because historically having a reading knowledge of the language was more important academically than speaking it              (e. g. history students were expected to be able to read scholarly articles about the Middle Ages written in French, German etc). As a consequence years after my French O level my conversational French is piss poor but I can pick up a French newspaper and make a reasonable job of understanding it. Sadly that is only of limited use career wise.

I think British kids would do as well to learn ancient Latin at school in place of most of the foreign languages they are taught as it would give them at least a root understanding of most of the Romance languages.

Edited by Virgil Caine

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Everyone else in my EMEA finance team isn't English. I have had long conversations with them about learning another language. When they ask how we were taught i tell them 1 hour a week. They laugh!

To get anywhere useful you'd need 5 hours a week and then to start watching movies, listening to radio and reading books. 

Unless you use it every day you'll really struggle. 

Then there's the question of which language to learn as an English speaker....... there's no right answer and i guess it depends on your life and where you want to go. But i once mistook a Polish colleague for a Russian and asked how she was in Russian (legacy fruition trying to impress a lovely lady at university) and she responded in Russian. Anyway, i eventually asked why she spoke Russian, she responded with 'know the language of the enemy'.

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To go against the grain I do find I can get by in France and Germany with O-levels and a smartphone. I do actually think the O-levels are the more essential bit. Even adjusting for it not being in the same alphabet I’m still nowhere near the same level in China despite spending way more time there.

Edited by SNACR

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4 minutes ago, SNACR said:

To go against the grain I do find I can get by in France and Germany with O-levels and a smartphone. I do actually think the O-levels are the more essential bit. Even adjusting for it not being in the same alphabet I’m still nowhere near the same level in China despite spending way more time there.

For politeness and creating a positive impression agree. Further levels - well hasn't that been pretty much made redundant as a skillset when you just hire a native speaker in whatever tongue as they are already here by 10k/100K.  At a young age it may help tune your grain to at least start thinking in an alternative language so if you did happen to a non english speaking country you might be able to pick up a different language quicker. Bring back Latin. :D Actually quite enjoyed Latin in a sadistic way, the teachers were far more entertaining and had some interesting historical stories to go alongside the language part.

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Maybe if we were all taught Latin we would have more doctors.  Or gardening presenters.  Ah, but the doctor shortage is not demand but those blooming trade unions.

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1 hour ago, Adarmo said:

Everyone else in my EMEA finance team isn't English. I have had long conversations with them about learning another language. When they ask how we were taught i tell them 1 hour a week. They laugh!

To get anywhere useful you'd need 5 hours a week and then to start watching movies, listening to radio and reading books. 

Unless you use it every day you'll really struggle. 

Then there's the question of which language to learn as an English speaker....... there's no right answer and i guess it depends on your life and where you want to go. But i once mistook a Polish colleague for a Russian and asked how she was in Russian (legacy fruition trying to impress a lovely lady at university) and she responded in Russian. Anyway, i eventually asked why she spoke Russian, she responded with 'know the language of the enemy'.

It's actually because they were taught it in school in previous years iirc.

Spoke to some barmen/burds over in Poland about it. 

They whole heartedly despise Russians in general though. Complete hatred for many. 

Edited by ccc

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1 minute ago, ccc said:

It's actually because they were taught it in school in previous years iirc.

Spoke to ages barmen/burds over in Poland about it. 

They whole heartedly despise Russians in general though. Complete hatred for many. 

As smart as Poles are i doubt they jyst woke up speaking it ;)

They don't speak highly of the Ruskies. Seem to think the Germans look down on them though. 

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1 minute ago, Adarmo said:

As smart as Poles are i doubt they jyst woke up speaking it ;)

They don't speak highly of the Ruskies. Seem to think the Germans look down on them though. 

Aye but I'm just saying whoever told you they knew it so they could know the 'language of the enemy' - was showing a bit of bravado and bluster.

They know it coz the 'enemy' forced them to learn it and they had no choice in the matter. Slightly different. :D

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1 hour ago, Virgil Caine said:

I think British kids would do as well to learn ancient Latin at school in place of most of the foreign languages they are taught as it would give them at least a root understanding of most of the Romance languages.

Can still recognise bits of Latin, but can't remember any of the French or Spanish we were made to do at school. I think the headmaster was a closet globalist big on foreign teachers and pushed that International Bacalaurrette  thing hard even though no one would sign up for it. Never needed any languages as have always worked within an hours drive of where I was born. One euro related problem I had from school was the insistence on teaching measurement entirely in metric with no reference at all to imperial. When I started work, all the old timers worked entirely in imperial which was difficult being unfamiliar with it, although I now use it more than metric as it relates better to the job.

Saying everyone needs languages for work is fluffy thinking from luvvie Guardian land where everyone has a second home in France and shows how clever they are by talking to the waiters in French. Languages are a particular skill set that will only apply to a few jobs.

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23 minutes ago, Adarmo said:

Seem to think the Germans look down on them though

Maybe they do, and most others, especially any weak ones like us.  I think they used to respect us, like we did.

Edited by Harley

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22 minutes ago, ccc said:

Aye but I'm just saying whoever told you they knew it so they could know the 'language of the enemy' - was showing a bit of bravado and bluster.

They know it coz the 'enemy' forced them to learn it and they had no choice in the matter. Slightly different. :D

 She was 5 when Poland left USSR....

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My ancestors had to learn English too or King Edward had them hanged!

Told that once to the locals complaining about having to speak English in front of the guests. 

Head bangs all round!

Edited by Harley

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This is not news, there has been a massive decline in the numbers taking languages since ~2004 when MFL GCSE stopped being compulsory. The change was meant to be countered with introduction of MFL at primary level but this was never implemented.

I think there is some merit in learning a language but it needs to start from reception age (or ideally at nursery school), starting at 11 is too old. For most it will not be useful for work but knowing a different language can give a different ways of thinking and seeing the world. Classroom learning is inefficient especially with a non-native speaker as the teacher. Replace at secondary level with individual learning via apps supplemented with conversation with native speaker and opportunity to spend a few months in the country.

Language barrier can be a problem at work, some of the French and Swiss people I've worked with have struggled to communicate job requirements in English; it helps being able to discuss in their first language.

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Teach linguistics rather than language, maybe using Latin. Too much English grammar is taught as 'it just is, ok' so provides little basis for acquiring a foreign language. English grammar is also too simple.

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3 hours ago, spygirl 🏆 said:

Ill be honest.

I learnt more French in 6 months sat in a hotel room watching the odd french grumble flicks then I ever did at school.

Of course my conversational french is limited to boob size, slwoer or faster, and if she wants wants it up the wrong un.

I had a mate in uni who had a similar level of Dutch for the same reason!

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