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Be positive about languages

IN WHATEVER terms the HMI report defines the failure of the current modern languages in primary schools initiative, we find it irresponsible of the press to use a soundbite like "flopped for the second time in 30 years" as a main focus of its coverage.

The highlighting of the negative comment may do much to harm the initiative which, with all its attendant supposed failings, has begun to encourage positive attitudes to foreign language learning in a nation of complacent monoglots.

We speak from an uninterrupted experience of modern languages in the primary schools in Dumfries and Galloway dating back to the time of the pilot and can report an enthusiastic welcome from pupils and parents alike for early foreign language learning.

The enthusiasm will be damaged if this kind of negative reporting is allowed to go unchallenged.

Primary teachers, too, are enthusiastic about the benefits of this addition to the curriculum and have made a considerable personal and professional commitment to training. To highlight that their work has flopped can only do damage.

The Scottish Office and the local education authorities have likewise invested time, money and talent. We need reporting which will, while admitting shortcomings, and addressing problematic issues, encourage the brave and costly attempt to save this country from its monoglot state by building on its successes.

Annelise Swanston

David Phin

Members of tutor team for modern languages in the primary school, Dumfries and Galloway

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