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Languages: Foreign practices

Immersion teaching is common practice in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, and it is widely acknowledged that it has a beneficial effect on children's learning of a foreign language. Scotland and the UK as a whole trail behind the rest of Europe in their foreign language skills.

It seems obvious, therefore, that immersion teaching should be given a try over here.

The idea is not completely new here. Gaelic medium projects across the country have shown how successful the technique can be, and before he left office former Scottish minister Brian Wilson gave strong support to extending the idea to teaching other modern languages.

Councillor Jurgen Thomaneck is vice-convenor of the education committee of Aberdeen City Council, and professor of German at the University of Aberdeen. He feels that Aberdeen is well placed to run a pilot project of total immersion teaching.

"Aberdeen is an international city, but so far it hasn't really utilised or responded to that. We had a highly successful Gaelic nursery venture in total immersion which was oversubscribed, and I would expect the same situation with modern languages such as French and German."

Aberdeen is in discussion with the Scottish Office about the pilot, to involve P1 children, which Thomaneck hopes would run for between one and three years, starting in a year's time. "According to all research results, the younger we start the teaching of foreign languages the better."

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