Spoiled for choice

15th June 2001 at 01:00

ISSUES IN MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES TEACHING. Edited by Kit Field. Routledge pound;16.99. Available from TES Direct. pound;15.99

Teachers who want to review what has happened in the world of modern languages teaching over the past two decades will find this collection a useful starting point. It looks at languages in the curriculum, communicative language teaching and the content of courses.

One of the most interesting chapters considers which languages should be taught in schools and concludes that "we are spoilt for choice". The upbeat treatment clearly demonstrates the national potential for an active and robust language policy across the curriculum.

The book looks back, but is also forward thinking. Most of the burning topics of recent years are here: ICT, mixed ability, gender differences, grammar, autonomy, target language use, cultural awareness and assessment.

Many controversial issues are raised and readers are encouraged to re-engage with such thorny questions as how to get the balance right etween target language and English, and how to deal with grammar across the ability and age range. Did anyone ever claim that grammar should not be taught and that the use of English was banned in the languages classroom?

Those involved in language teaching are still digesting the rather doomy findings of the Nuffield Inquiry. The revised national curriculum also raises important questions concerning links with key skills and other areas of the curriculum. Neither of these documents is considered at any length in this book.

However, in its final section a possible future approach to modern language pedagogy emerges. In chapters dealing with the content of language teaching and linguistic transfer across languages, the authors show how a new approach must be more culturally sensitive and relevant. Methodology must aim to be cross-curricular and integrate with the National Literacy Strategy in its thinking about language. The idea of a whole-school language policy and practice is an exciting one.

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