It helps to teach if you don't speak English

FOREIGN language assistants cannot provide the regular "meaningful" contact pupils need with native speakers, Aberdeen says. Instead the city wants to employ French and German expatriates as classroom assistants to build language skills, adapting the model from Gaelic-medium education.

It considered reinstating foreign assistants but concludes that there could never be enough to meet the new entitlement to language learning and, specifically, the increased chances for all pupils to test their skills with native speakers.

They would also be too expensive and force cutbacks in other initiatives, such as immersion French in early primary.

Officials argue that contracts for 12 hours a week, which run from September to May, have become "very limiting" with the entitlement for all pupils of 500 hours of language learning from at least P6 up to S4.

Aberdeen's alternative programme would tap the cosmopolitan nature of the oil city and lure native speakers into new careers. As classroom assistants, they would support activities, help to prepare materials, advise on language use and, most importantly, use the language at all times in and around the classroom.

Their presence in the classroom would help create an environment in which the use of different languages is accepted as the norm, officials believe.

The initiative is being funded from the Scottish Executive's three-year language development scheme. Two key recommendations from its action group were more practical use of languages and greater use of new technology from P6 onwards.

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