The Linguist

The Linguist 54,6

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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20 The Linguist Vol/54 No/6 2015 FEATURES Language awareness programmes in primary schools can improve general literacy and lead to a greater take-up of languages at GCSE, finds Amanda Barton S ince September 2014, languages have been a statutory part of the curriculum for children in the last four years of state-funded primary schools in England. The national curriculum does not specify which languages should be taught; schools can teach any modern or ancient foreign language. Most primary schools are offering one or two languages, determined by the linguistic knowledge of their staff. But programmes that give children a taster of a range of languages are being offered by an increasing number. Often these programmes incorporate an element of language awareness, an initiative known previously under a variety of names, including awareness of language (AOL), éveil/ouverture aux langues, Sprachaufmerksamkeit or, simply, language study. Why language awareness? Language awareness (LA) programmes typically set out to equip students with a broader knowledge of the language under study, usually drawing comparisons with the mother tongue and other languages. A well-known advocate, the late Eric Hawkins, argued the need for a "foreign language apprenticeship", which provides students with "the tools for (and, we may hope, a taste for) foreign language learning". 1 There is, therefore, an element of learning how to learn in LA programmes, which enhance pupils' linguistic sensitivity, intercultural awareness and literacy skills as well as their knowledge of the languages studied. Hawkins' thesis is that languages cannot be taught to young children for instrumental purposes since they are unable to predict which languages they will need in later life. LA programmes provide them instead with the tools to make informed choices later in life. They also provide a potential solution to the problematic issue of primary schools teaching a language which may not be offered when the children go on to secondary school. Only 28% of state secondary schools in the recent Language Trends survey reported that they were able to offer children the language they had begun studying in primary. 2 Discovering Language The Discovering Language (DL) programme is one example of a relatively well-established multilingual language awareness approach. The project was initially funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and managed under the auspices of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) led by Peter Downes. Clusters of schools in Buckinghamshire, Norfolk, Staffordshire, the Isle of Man and Kent, as well as some individual schools in the independent sector, have adopted the DL model. Since it is an approach, rather than a prescriptive package, there is some variability in provision in different schools. While some are delivering the programme plus three One feeder school was so impressed that it introduced its own language awareness programme in Year 8 Awakening the kids

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