Restore what was lost in translation

28th February 2003 at 00:00
If the Government is determined to commit the obvious folly of relegating modern foreign languages to an optional pastime (except in primary schools) at a time when linguistic ability in those seeking employment becomes of paramount importance. I would therefore make a plea for those of us who teach them to be allowed to re-examine what we do.

When the GCSE was introduced, one of its most devastating - if predictable consequences - was to remove the requirement of intellectual rigour. This was inevitable, however laudable the aim, in any examination designed to cater for the whole ability range, and there was a subsequent impact on what could reasonably be demanded at A-level.

Might we now have our subject back? Would the boards countenance a return to the much-lamented exercise of translation (the one thing most people are asked to do with their languages) and the analytical skills that it required?

Could we hope for really demanding and satisfying work again at A-level once pupils had come through a more demanding qualification at 16, perhaps even including a serious study of literature?

This would be a fair compensation, I suppose, for the loss of status of our subject.

At least it would mean that, as for classics, even if numbers were small what pupils and teachers were doing would be thoroughly worthwhile.

Simon Corns

Second Master

St Albans school

Abbey Gateway

St Albans

Hertfordshire

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