Advantage of familiarity

22nd September 2000 at 01:00
Specialist staff aren't necessarily best for primary languages, reports Sarah Cassidy.

CHILDREN leave primary school with more positive attitudes about foreign languages if they are taught by their class teacher rather than a visiting specialist, new research suggests.

Language lessons should not be simply bolted on to the existing curriculum and they should make pupils aware of cultural differences.

These findings have emerged from a study of primary language teaching in more than 20 schools in two local education authorities.

One had timetabled French lessons taught by peripatetic specialists while the other asked class teachers to integrate French into their daily curriculum.

The first scheme covered more topics, vocabulary and grammar, but as the visiting specialists knew little about their pupils' general attainment and background, it was difficult for them to develop relationships with the children.

However, Patricia Driscoll of Canterbury Christ hurch University College, Kent, also found that the specialist teachers were able to draw on their knowledge of France and present cultural aspects in the form of stories and personal anecdotes.

The language taught in the generalists' classrooms made only superficial use of grammar structures. They did not teach French culture in the language lessons although it was sometimes highlighted elsewhere in the curriculum.

But generalist teachers had a distinct advantage because of the good relationships they had with their students. They consequently experienced less disruptive behaviour than the specialist teachers.

"Given the reality of the available teacher expertise, it would seem to be a major folly to narrowly pursue the aims of linguistic performance," Patricia Driscoll concludes.

"Rather, there is a need to...cultivate the broader educational dimensions of MFL such as language and cultural awareness, and a sense of citizenship," the researcher says.


Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now