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'Don't miss the bus on languages'

A RADICAL alternative to the proposed national guidelines for 5-14 modern languages has been put forward by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council. It rejects teaching one language in the upper primary in favour of an introduction to how languages work.

In response to a report from the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, the SPTC want pupils to learn basic statements such as "I came to school by bus" in a range of languages, including non-European ones spoken by any children in the class. There would also be an introduction to the mechanics of language, such as verb tenses.

Judith Gillespie, the SPTC's development manager, said it was important to ensure that "youngsters who find they cannot achieve perfect bilingualism do not become disillusioned and give up". More modest teaching targets would allow pupils to feel they had succeeded.

Secondary schools should look at language "immersion" periods in S1-S3. The heavy focus on speaking should be reduced, with more attention to written work.

The SPTC also favours specialist languages schools for those over 16 but only for students "who are themselves keen to develop their languages and not merely as a result of parental enthusiasm".

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