Language diploma students urged to explain personal motive

17th July 2009 at 01:00
Holiday plans or friends and family abroad could be discussed as part of new qualification

Teenagers taking the new languages diploma will be asked to write about their personal motivation for learning that language, which could include their holiday plans or a love of a particular country's music.

Language experts hope young people will learn better if they focus on the subject's specific benefits to them, such as allowing them to communicate with friends who speak that language or do work experience abroad, rather than simply studying it "because they have to".

The largest number of teaching hours in the diploma in languages and international communication, which is due to be taught from 2011, will be on lessons in a main language, such as French or Spanish. This will be taught in a more project-based way than the traditional GCSE or A-level.

Another section will focus on self-directed learning, in which students will learn about how to learn a language. For this they will be expected to choose a second language and discover how to find and evaluate resources, set targets and, at higher levels, learn about learning styles and the science of second language acquisition.

They will also identify the purpose to them of learning the modern languages they have chosen.

Terry Lamb, chair of the languages diploma development partnership, told a conference in the House of Lords on community language learning: "Learners will identify a language they wish to learn, to what degree and for what purpose. I hope that some people may well choose to learn Urdu or Turkish because their friends speak it. That will provide a rationale for learning that language and then they will set realistic targets and find ways of supporting themselves in that language.

"I hope to encourage people, through getting them to think about the benefits of language learning for themselves."

Dr Lamb, a senior lecturer at Sheffield University, said it was important that the initiative would make it possible for children to take up community languages, such as Turkish or Urdu, rather than only traditional languages.

"We're being quite insistent on that and working closely to make sure a range of languages is offered. That is very important to us," he said.

The consultation on the diploma ended in May and the final version of the content will be available from the end of this month.

However, the Conservatives have hinted that they may drop the more academic diplomas, such as languages, and retain only the work-based ones if they are elected next year.

Language learning in the UK has dropped dramatically since the Government said 14-year-olds could choose not to take languages in 2004.

In 2004, 289,800 pupils took GCSE French and 116,300 took GCSE German. By 2008, those figures had dropped by 40 per cent to 176,000 and 71,000 respectively.

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