Do you know why British kids are not required to learn foreign languages past the age of 14? No, it’s not because there aren’t enough teachers. Nor is it because there isn’t time for foreign languages in the curriculum. Nope, as an official revealed the other day on BBC Radio 4, it’s because students – er – I mean, pupils can’t express themselves in English so there is no point in trying to make them speak another language, is there?
Good, eh? If you remove foreign languages from the curriculum, teachers don’t waste their time and kids don’t fail, and everyone’s happy.
Does it mean that pupils will acquire a better command of English when they’re not being bothered by pesky irregular French verbs? What do you think? What will replace foreign languages? More English lessons? Probably not. Will the kids spend their newly-found free time reading? I don’t think so. If would-be writers need to be told to read, as I discovered recently, why should teenagers, who would rather be playing computer games, bury their noses in old-fashioned books? But if they don’t read they will never be able to use all the wonderful possibilities offered by their mother-tongue. Like interesting figures of speech, for instance: puns or rhetorical questions or irony*, say.**
Slapping short-sighted educators and literal-minded people while I’m at it.
*Some folks are better at irony (using it and getting it) than others: I’m told it’s a cultural thang.
**Homework for the above-mentioned lmp: find one instance of each in this post.