Don't panic over the state of languages

15th July 2005 at 01:00
I am pleased The TES recognises how important it is for English children to learn foreign languages and you are right to raise concerns about any reduction in the study of languages in secondary schools.

Your editorial ("No time to be lax with the lingo", TES, July 1) gets to the heart of the matter. What's important is that our children are encouraged by schools, teachers, parents and society at large to recognise the value of speaking other languages. It's vital if they're going to compete for jobs in an international economy.

Many of us are working hard to ensure that this message gets across, including those who support languages education at the Department for Education and Skills.

I must point out, however, that the Association for Language Learning has not surveyed the current situation among 11 to 14-year-olds in schools in England, as implied in your front-page story ("Little England expects...", TES, July 1). We did play a major part last year in a survey of languages in schools, but it was centred on 14 to 16-year-olds.

It was only as a spin-off from this survey that we picked up isolated indicators of languages being taught less in the 11-14 age range. We did not become aware of any evidence of a general trend to reduce provision drastically in the lower age range.

The idea that children are only being taught a language for one month of their school lives derives entirely from a calculation which The TES seems to have made.

There are worrying developments in the provision of languages in secondary schools, but there are also encouraging signs, with many teachers working hard to make the subject exciting and relevant.

Linda Parker

Director, Association for Language Learning

150 Railway Terrace

Rugby, Warwickshire

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