German is taking over as language of pupils' choice

22nd January 2010 at 00:00

It is disheartening to read regularly about the decline in uptake of foreign languages in schools and, in particular, the number of German departments closing their doors in secondary schools and universities.

The experience of my school shows that this trend can be reversed. Over the last three years, one-third of all pupils have chosen German. The reasons are varied: some pupils have become disenchanted with French and want something new; some like the sound of the language and find it easier to pronounce than French; and many pupils are influenced by the teacher.

I appreciate I have excellent conditions in which to promote German; as an independent school taking pupils from P1 to S6, we have an influence over the teaching of a foreign language from an early age. We are fortunate too that Latin is taught to all S1s, which is an important crutch for those learning modern foreign languages. But for schools who wish to follow the German path, there is much support out there, from the Goethe Institute in particular.

German is a great, fun language to learn. It is challenging enough to sustain pupils' interest and its logic and structure appeal to pupils of less ability, provided they are introduced to the grammar in progressive chunks. As German is all but ousted from the curriculum, now is the time to act before it is too late.

Calum Ure, head of faculty of languages, St Columba's School, Kilmacolm.

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