'Minority' languages under further threat

28th October 2011 at 01:00

I read with some exasperation the letter from Phil Delnon (14 October) about the suggestion that Year 7 modern foreign language (MFL) pupils should be arranged according to their key stage 2 MFL provision.

Pupils are not blank slates and teachers should indeed take into account any prior MFL experience - at school or elsewhere. One of the foreseeable problems that would ensue from "arranging" is the continued hegemony of some languages and the continued decline of others. It is commonly reported - for nearly a century (From the Archive, 7 October) - that German is in decline and Spanish is experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity. But what then happens to the "minority" languages and the teachers who teach them? Even more importantly, what about the pupils who learn even "less popular" languages at KS2, such as Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Dutch and indeed German?

If there is language provision at KS2 (as there should be), and if it is taught "properly" (as it should be), then even if a change of MFL provision takes place at the start of KS3, any competent teacher should be able to build upon the MFL skills acquired at KS2.

Arranging pupils based on decisions taken at KS2 - and the inevitable narrowing of the range of languages available from KS3 that would result - can only serve to make the future for MFL bleaker still.

James EC Nye, PGCE student of secondary MFL, Southampton University.

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