The Linguist


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6 The Linguist Vol/57 No/5 2018 NEWS & EDITORIAL The all-party group considers positive developments in language education, reports Philip Harding-Esch Inside parliament The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Modern Languages tends to discuss policy challenges with a languages focus. For its July meeting, however, it wished to hear about a range of recent positive developments. Department for Education MFL Hubs The DfE is launching a pilot model of support between schools which aims to drive improvement in languages teaching across England at Key Stages 3 and 4 (ages 11-16), based on the recommendations of the Teaching Schools Council's modern foreign languages (MFL) pedagogy review. Nine schools will act as hubs, working with other schools in their area. This is a significant development towards the government's aim of a 90% Ebacc pass rate (grades A-C in five core subjects at GCSE, including a language). Centres of excellence in CLIL On 10 May, the University of Westminster launched its CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) Centre of Excellence aiming to support teachers using, or wishing to use, a CLIL approach. On 3 May, Aston University launched its National Centre for CLIL. Year 10s at one school made a grade- and-a-half more progress after learning their usual school subjects in French. Real Lives examinations The IoL Educational Trust (IoLET) introduced an exam series with a new format for testing practical, applied language skills in real-life scenarios. It is based on situations that have authenticity and urgency, which will appeal to students who don't always recognise the usefulness or relevance of language learning. The state of modern foreign languages The British Council's annual Language Trends survey was published on 26 June. The data uncovers trends in the demographics of MFL students in England and the impact of Brexit. The most important finding is a widening gap in opportunities to study languages between different socio-demographic groups. Interactive mapping of language teaching On 25 May, the British Academy launched a pilot to map foreign language teaching and research in the UK education sector. Starting with Arabic, the map shows teaching provision, capacity and pathways from secondary school to postdoctoral research. In the media PHILIP HARDING-ESCH August's A-level results finally catapulted the ongoing decline in modern foreign languages (MFL) to the front pages, as entries dropped again – by 8% for French, 16.5% for German and 5% overall. There are now fewer entries for German than Chinese. All the main newspapers covered this, with The Times leading for two days on the drop in German entries and running an impassioned opinion piece arguing that "We can't afford to let language teaching die". Several outlets quoted Ofsted's Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, who called the situation "very worrying". A week later, the TES was quick to report on the increase in MFL GCSE entries, with the 2% rise for German particularly singled out. Could this mark the beginning of a turnaround for MFL in our schools? The DfE's new £4.8m network of nine school-based MFL hubs in England, aiming to increase attainment and uptake, received modest coverage; TES and SchoolsWeek counterbalanced this welcome initiative with teachers' warning that it is "not enough". Given the context, it is perhaps unsurprising that the British government humiliated itself by issuing "unreadable" (The Independent) translations of the Chequers Brexit paper to its European partners in a widely-reported faux pas. Meanwhile, many papers covered the British Council's survey of British tourists, with 73% agreeing it is important to learn some foreign-language phrases before travelling and 28% prioritising being able to order two drinks at the bar (Metro). The importance of translators and interpreters got a rare spot in the limelight when interpreters in Brussels went on strike, demonstrating "their considerable influence on the Brussels project", as The Daily Express described it. It was also great to read about a linguist's success story, with The Times featuring Actar Arya and her translation company in its 'How I Made It' series. Philip Harding-Esch is a freelance languages project manager and consultant. Philip Harding-Esch works on behalf of the British Council to support the APPG on Modern Languages. TL © SHUTTERSTOCK

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