The Linguist

The Linguist 54,4

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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that this is a difficult listening task, and I'm not sure if you'll manage it. Do you think you will?' A line like this usually produces very different responses in boys and girls, with boys desperate to prove the teacher wrong. The following exercise is useful, as it stimulates boys to write extended sentences, rather than the minimum that they often choose to produce. Challenge pupils to write as long a sentence as possible by taking it in turns to add one word or phrase at a time to a short core sentence. This is particularly useful for practising separable verbs in German. The teacher would display, for example, Ich sehe fern ('I watch TV'). Pupils could make this longer in a number of way, for example: Ich sehe gern fern. Ich sehe gern um sechs Uhr fern. Ich sehe gern um sechs Uhr im Wohnzimmer fern. ('I like watching TV at six o'clock in the lounge'). An example in French would be Je sors ('I'm going out'): Je sors maintenant. Je sors maintenant parce que… Je sors maintenant parce qu' il y a… ('I'm going out now because there is…') 8 The Linguist Vol/54 No/4 2015 FEATURES Packaging an activity as a game, albeit a simple one, has a huge impact Why do boys underachieve in languages and what can be done about it, asks Amanda Barton I n 1998, I wrote an article for The Linguist entitled 'Unlikely Linguists'. It was based on my PhD research, which focused on the gender gap between boys' and girls' achievements in language learning. Seventeen years later, boys' underachievement across the secondary curriculum continues to be an area of concern, and the gap in language- based subjects is wider than ever. Although examination results have continued to improved year on year for boys and girls, the 2014 results revealed the widest gap between the sexes in more than a decade. Girls outperformed boys in every subject except maths. So why do boys underperform in languages and how can we raise both their motivation and their performance in the classroom? Boys will be boys? Teachers frequently ask whether girls, unlike boys, are biologically predisposed to language learning. However, not all boys underachieve in modern foreign languages (MFL); in some schools boys outperform girls across the curriculum. A-level results demonstrate that those boys who continue studying a language post-16 do extremely well. One factor that may influence boys' attitudes to languages is the feminine associations of the subject. There are far more female than male MFL teachers, so some boys may never be taught by a man. Parents, and society in general, have different expectations of boys and girls. Girls are encouraged to be more communicative, and passive, boys to be noisier and more active. The Nuffield Languages Inquiry (2000) 1 suggested that parents are more likely to encourage their daughters, rather than their sons, to do well in a language. The curriculum may also seem more girl- friendly. In the GCSE exam, pupils are required to describe their friends, their physical appearance and their bedrooms, and talk about going shopping and going on holiday. While younger boys may be happy to do this, adolescent boys are less inclined to talk about subjects that they do not readily discuss in their first language. Making languages relevant My research shows that, for many boys, understanding the relevance and usefulness of learning a language is central to their motivation. One Year 8 boy commented: 'Knowing you'll use your French in the future is important. I ain't never going to use it, so there's no point in learning.' The website is a great resource for opening up a discussion about the benefits of learning languages. It has links to lots of resources, including a video, a quiz, advice on exams and revision, and 700 reasons to study languages. Inviting male role models, who use languages in business and industry, into the classroom is also helpful in countering the belief that languages are only for girls. Creating a challenge Providing a challenge is key to motivating boys. This can be a challenge against the clock in a timed activity; a challenge to 'beat the teacher'; or simply an activity that the teacher presents as a challenge: 'Now, I know The problem with boys

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