UK's international education body highlights most important foreign languages to learn

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Dariush Robertson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
Chinese to English
Private schools vs. state schools Nov 25, 2013

When I was last in the UK, only one local private school taught Mandarin (there were about 6 - 7 private schools within a 30 min commute of my area). Many local state schools talked about providing Mandarin classes (as they have been for several years), but nothing ever seems to happen. Most of them have been teaching French or German for decades, have French and German resources and will probably still be teaching French and German in years to come. It's a shame, as languages like Mandarin will be a massive asset. That's probably why it mainly seems to be taught in private schools.


Local time: 08:49
Italian to English
The report Nov 25, 2013

Perhaps I missed it, but I couldn’t find the actual report from the story. It was easy to find though, here:


ventnai  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:49
German to English
+ ...
More Spanish Nov 27, 2013

I think that they should focus more on Spanish as the first general language as it is relatively easy to learn, there are opportunities to use it near and far and resources already exist.


Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
Hebrew to English
Hmmmm.... Nov 28, 2013

Despite the lengths the report goes to to convince us that their parameters are not entirely economically based, it does seem heavily weighted in that direction. Not to mention that even after reading it, I'm still not sure how you go about quantifying "geopolitical, educational and cultural indicators".

The impression I got was that it was yet another report judging a language's worth based almost entirely on its country's GDP.

On a positive note, I did enjoy the syntax diagram/poster on page 20/21.

I thought the much more comprehensive "Languages: The State of the Nation" report, published by the British Academy, was much more enlightening.


United Kingdom
Local time: 07:49
English to Italian
+ ...
Nothing will change... Nov 28, 2013

until the whole secondary school system is changed.

Dariush Robertson wrote:

but nothing ever seems to happen.

Have you heard of league tables? It's all that matters nowadays for secondary schools. Due to the appalling language curriculum, languages are considered a hard, boring subject and as they are tought at the moment it is hard to get good marks at GCSEs, which in turn has a negative impact on the schools' position in the tables. Therefore schools tend to encourage less promising students to drop languages at age 14.
As for Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic etc, I was told by a teacher in a private school that they really only offer them to bilingual students and tend to discourage students who would be learning them from scratch to apply for the above reason.

My son is now taking A2 French and they studied subjunctives a few months ago, towards the end of AS. I was shocked, but maybe not, considering that they have spent years (from Y7 to Y12) learning to say a few sentences about their favourite film, how they go to school, if they wear a uniform etc. Only now, in Y13, are they studying one (ONE!) piece of literature for their A2. And they are still learning basic grammar.

His sixth-form college, the top State college in the UK, has just cut Italian and Spanish at A2 so as to divert more funds to the sciences. Note that the school had had a record number of enquiries in those languages from the new intake but to no avail.

I seriously think there is something wrong with the whole structure of secondary education in the UK. I find GCSEs at 16 disruptive. Between the ages of 14 and 18 students are preparing exams (the reason why private schools are such an issue here) and the scope of learning is very limited. They spend months practising on past papers. At 16 they drop most subjects and only specialise in 4, dropping one more at 17. With only three subjects left, many don't want to "waste" a subject on a language.

I have been teaching Italian at university for about ten years but it was only last year, after helping my son with GSCEs and AS when I realised that I had been overestimating my students. I assumed they regularly read essays, literature and newpapers in their foreign languages before coming to uni, just like I used to do at their age... clearly I was wrong. In the first year at uni (MML), many have to be reminded what a subject, a verb, an object, a transitive verb are. Nonetheless they catch up quickly and I believe that at the end of their fourth year they beat many of their foreign counterparts who might have learnt more "theory" but are overall a lot less competent.

[Edited at 2013-11-28 17:49 GMT]


Local time: 08:49
Italian to English
Reminded? Nov 29, 2013

LuciaC wrote:

many have to be reminded what a subject, a verb, an object, a transitive verb are.
You make it sound as though there's some sort of systematic grammar instruction in schools. As I recall, I basically owe my English grammar to GCSE German lessons, and I always liked English.


Local time: 15:49
English to Chinese
+ ...
What happens in China Nov 30, 2013

Perhaps there is no perfect education structure at all.
In China, once entering into a school, life will be dominated by "study study and still study", until entering into university, youpi, "finally liberated".
People of my generation began to study English in middle school, in about 1996 or 97 (for us, it's really exciting as we are curious of this completely new thing); since middle school, English began to be a compulsory course till Uni. If one fail to pass the CET4 (College English test), he cannot obtain a degree then...
Now, people "have recognized" the importance of foreign languages (for them, foreign language means English), some even send their children to bilingual kindergarten. The result is, a lot of children begin to hate English...


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UK's international education body highlights most important foreign languages to learn

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