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Flying pigs greet language plan

IT seems clear from your report that within a few years only a minority of pupils will study a foreign language to age 16 (TES, May 24), and that the Government hopes to deflect criticism by pointing to its plans for primary-school children to learn a language. But this just is not good enough.

The primary French experiment of the 1960s saw many dedicated teachers produce good results using excellent materials (eg: the Nuffield En Avant course), but ultimately it failed. It reinforced the predominance of French at the expense of other languages, and caused problems with pupil transfer at 11-plus.

If similar problems occur this time round, we really are going to be in the soup as a nation. I would be a bit happier if I thought the Government had somehow miraculously recruited an army of skilful, energetic bi-lingual teachers, able to cope with the frequent short bursts of intensive oral work required in the early stages of language-learning.

Of course a properly-funded national system for employing foreign language assistants would help, but pigs might fly.

The tragedy is that thanks to new technology it has never been easier to learn a foreign language. In the days when the teacher had to lug a heavy reel-to-reel tape recorder from room to room and spend half the lesson rewinding yards of twisted tape from the classroom floor, we had excuses for our incompetence.

If the Government stopped looking for quick fixes, started listening to teachers, and developed a coherent strategy, we could all expect to leave school able to speak at least one foreign language.

Tim Cannam

Groom's Cottage

Harperley Hall

Fir Tree

Crook, County Durham

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