Modern languages - Au revoir, le francais?

2nd March 2012 at 00:00

What it's all about

French has always been the main language offered in British schools, and in many this is the only reason it is still on the timetable. Yet there are many more reasons for learning a language and for teaching one, writes Abigail Parrish.

Non-linguistic arguments include geography: if you are on the south coast, near the major holiday ports, French makes sense. But for eastern England, countries such as the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia are closer. As far back as 1949, it was suggested that schools in the north-east should teach Scandinavian languages. If there are easy transport links from your region, there will also be business links and employers may be keen to support local schools in teaching the language of their trading partners.

Thinking linguistically, consider whether learners can make quick progress. If they have to spend weeks learning complex writing systems, spelling rules or grammar before they see results, pupils may switch off. French, with its silent letters and non-phonetic spelling, may not suit your pupils - particularly if they have poor literacy. German, while sharing much of its linguistic heritage with English, has a notoriously complicated grammar. On the other hand, a language like Dutch, closely related to English, allows beginners to enjoy early success: there are many cognates, spelling is phonetic and the grammar is relatively simple. Pupils could be confidently reading texts, translating unfamiliar words and generating their own language within a few lessons.

And there's more

Andyholland has shared an introduction to Japanese and a dice game to help students create simple sentences in Dutch.

Simplify German by showing pupils its similarities to English with MrsAThomas's handy worksheets.

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