Friday, 14 December 2007

Language matters

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.


  1. A couple of years ago my friend told me that our alma mater (big, rich Oxbridge college that invests much time and money encouraging state school applications) had NO state school kids applying to study modern languages.

    Zero, zilch, zip, none, nada, rien.

    So this doesn't surprise me. Saddens me, yes.

  2. It sure surprises me! I've always thought that your schools were better than ours. Our school district requires a foreign language every year that a pupil is in school.

    Homework: *sigh*
    rhetorical questions -- lots of those, I'll do, " there is no point in trying to make them speak another language, is there?"

    Pun: "...cultural thang."

    Irony:"...pupils can’t express themselves in English so there is no point in trying to make them speak another language...."

    Figure of speech:"...bury their noses ...."

    Do I get extra credit for completing the assignment? Minus points for missing the best irony?
    (would-be writers need to be told to read)

  3. This is why I find that my own English skills are better than some of the native speakers sometimes...I am of course referring to non academic native speakers and not very much educated at that, but still...

    The good part of being part of a nation whose mother tongue is only spoken by a few millions.

    Slap on anyone who underestimates the value of proper edcation (It's become very trendy to do so!! *pulling my hair out*)

    Hope your Hannukah was a good one.


  4. tout a fait d'accord! and you should see my kids' french homework! they compose sentences by rearranging jumbled words - everything is there for them on the page. a monkey could do it! this is how school results appear to be getting better and better - by successive dumbing down! makes my blood boil.

  5. That is a real disgrace, but I'm not surprised by what you're telling me either, B. Is there any hope that the people in charge will wake up some day and realize the damage they've done?

    TLP, you're a sucker for punishment, I see. Did Little TLP ask for more homework when she was at school? You get extra credit for doing it at all, sweetie (I didn't mean for my lovely readers to rack their brains in that way: I'm not that sadistic. No, I'm not!) ♥

    H, for a very long time I couldn't understand why native English speakers made any mistakes at all - ever. But then I'm always stunned when my fellow countrymen (the ones that are supposed to be highly educated) can't spell, or whatever. LOL! It's beyond me.

    R, I have railed about that dumbing down for years. It turns young people into 'narcissistic praise junkies'.


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