As somebody who is in the classroom, I always find debates about languages by non-teachers both fascinating and worrying. We are discussing languages education and the members of the panels often have a partial view of it depending on the degree of their direct involvement with it. It is sometimes difficult not to feel this is all too anecdotal but the truth of the matter is that anecdotes do shape our views-whether positive or negative.
I found the idea of doing ICT through the medium of German discussed by David Kennedy a very interesting one. German is often seen as a more “boy-friendly” subject and ICT can also be seen that way. ICT-learning is naturally more student-centred and students can work at their own pace in a more naturally differentiated way. In addition, ICT terminology is well defined, which means that it is easier to access in different languages.
I really enjoyed Larry Lamb’s account of his “personal encounter” with language learning. I particularly liked the fact that he challenged very openly the perceptions of languages of languages as “a middle class subject for posh kids”, as if working class children could not benefit from language learning, ignoring all the personal benefits language learning can bring ALL students.
I totally agreed with David Kennedy when he pointed out that to encourage languages in general and at primary in particular, it is essential to remove barriers and develop more joined-up thinking from primary schools to secondary languages departments.
Languages are seen as elitist and middle class and too hard, so all agreed that they need to be “popularised” in a similar way this has been done for science, for instance.
Larry Lamb controversially stated that he could not understand why Religious Studies are part of the “core” but it is OK to do without languages. In my opinion, there is certainly a case for giving languages the status of “core” to ensure that all students have access to some language studies regardless of ability.
All agreed that cross-curricular partnerships have a great potential to promote both languages and subjects like PSHE, which also often need promoting. In addition, joint degrees-e.g. marketing and French should also be given a higher profile.
Rosie Goldsmith defined Languages as “a passport to a broader life” and all members of the panels supported this stating how important it is for speakers to come in to talk about what they do with their languages so that students realise the real opportunities offered by studying a language.
David Smith from the EC interpreting service quoted that “36% employers recruit for language skills and cultural awareness”. So, in view of the generally anti-European stance in the UK, what can be done to recruit more interpreters? The service has looked into many ways of promoting interpreting as a career including a very popular Facebook page.