An anti-Europe culture

25th June 2004 at 01:00
You rightly draw attention to British pupils' lack of enthusiasm for languages. However, your solution: "They need to be more useful and relevant but above all more fun" is both simplistic and unjust.

Transactional language (your article refers to "dreary...courses about buying bus-tickets and ice-creams") is relevant to anyone who goes on holiday abroad, and wants to communicate in the local language.

The conversation element of GCSE is mostly in the first person, allowing young people to talk about their lives, interests, and opinions. While using business language could increase the relevance of the course, it is hardly likely to inspire pupils.

Your prescription for more fun in the classroom ("a bit more "ooh la la!"

and a little less "plume de ma tante") will infuriate many hard-working language teachers who work desperately hard to motivate pupils through games and other activities.

I agree we must improve courses and examinations, but as long as politicians and the media maintain a negative tone in most of their references to Europe, as long as Europeans talking on TV news are voiced over in English (what is wrong with subtitles?), and as long as we as a nation fail to give real status to the learning of modern languages, it will remain difficult to motivate young people to learn them.

Tony Newell 25 Belle Vue Gardens Shrewsbury Shropshire

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