A little language can be a bad thing

24th March 2006 at 00:00
A smattering of French and German drip-fed a couple of times a week over several years will not do, one of the country's foremost language researchers will today (Friday) tell a major conference in Edinburgh.

Professor Dick Johnstone of Stirling University says that even talented students feel they cannot master languages as well as their continental counterparts because of current teaching approaches.

Professor Johnstone is pressing for alternatives to the "drip-feed model"

such as the early immersion, either total or partial, that is common in Gaelic-medium education or the French trial in an Aberdeen primary.

A second more radical option would be to study another secondary subject or parts of it in their target language.

Alternatively, the "virtual communities" of language learners among 29 west of Scotland secondaries and partners in other countries could offer a successful model, Professor Johnstone says.

In an address to the Royal Society of Edinburgh conference, he admits it is unrealistic to expect schools to abandon the drip-feed model, although they should consider ways to strengthen it.

The conference will also hear from the British Council that monolingual English speakers face a bleak economic future as Mandarin and Spanish become the major challengers.

Full report next week

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