The Linguist

The Linguist 58,4 - Aug/Sept 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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HITTING A WALL Language experts need skills in unrelated subjects, including the ability to do maths quickly in English 30 The Linguist Vol/58 No/4 2019 OPINION & COMMENT Is the recruitment of language teachers for UK state schools biased against native speakers of the languages? REZA NAVAEI In order to teach modern foreign language (MFL) courses at state secondary schools in England, which by and large means teaching German, Italian, French or Spanish, prospective applicants must obtain Qualified Teaching Status (QTS). There are many routes available to achieve this, each including a minimum of one-year teacher training. But for all of them, applicants must hold a GCSE in English and maths or equivalent, and sit literacy and numeracy skills tests in English. Only after successful completion of the course are they allowed to teach in state secondaries. This one-size-fits-all approach seems to disadvantage highly educated, highly capable native linguists, who despite their wealth of knowledge and expertise in their particular language will fall at one of the many bureaucratic hurdles imbedded in the process. By definition, the requirement to have English and maths GCSEs excludes native speakers of other languages because the majority are educated outside the UK. Although the criteria stipulate that equivalent qualifications are acceptable, in reality most students who have grown up in a non-Anglophone country have studied English as a foreign language (EFL) at school, which means they do not have a qualification equivalent to a GCSE in English. In addition, applicants with a degree in the language of their country are required to sit an English test that is designed to assess the literacy of native speakers of English. This test is timed and can be taken a maximum of three times before penalties come into force, preventing applicants from retrying. Prospective MFL teachers must take this test even if they can provide proof of their English-language capabilities in the form of an IELTS (or similar) certificate, which enables them to enrol in higher education in the UK. Applicants are also required to sit a maths exam, which includes timed mental maths questions read to them in audio format in English. These are designed to measure the maths literacy skills of native English speakers, even though MFL applicants wish only to teach a language. Barred from teaching © SHUTTERSTOCK

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