Pickled peers;Talkback

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
Who says British pupils are not any good at languages? An encounter with an A-level class in my school's computing department provided evidence to the contrary. Sixteen pupils were not only working through complex computer programming exercises but also speaking a foreign language at the same time.

It was a strange dialect, with terms such as "booting", "browsing", "pickling", "glazing", "irritainment" and "softlifting". There were also curious phrases such as "serendipity search" and "shoulder surfing".

When the class took a break, the conversation turned to the plight of a sixth-former who had been overdoing the "byte bonding" during "vampire time" to the extent that he was about to be "uninstalled" from his A-level classes. Another had been forced to take part in a "blame-storming session" in the principal's study.

I also overhead a few references to teachers. Their computer teacher was a "cybercop" because, presumably, she prevented her classes from accessing the more dubious sections of the Internet. Another teacher was a "cyber luddite" because she lacked an appreciation of modern learning technology.

These pupils were not only speaking a different language, they were inventing and developing it as they went along. Sometimes this involved giving existing words suffixes such as "ity" and "itis" to create new terms such as "functionality" and "single systemitis".

Such imaginative use of language destroys the myth that our pupils are unable to master new languages. This class's interest in IT meant they were keen to learn as much as possible. Where there is interest, there is definitely motivation to learn.

Calum Stewart teaches geography in Scotland Talkback

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