The Linguist

The Linguist 55,2

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 35

Primary MFL: A harsh awakening The delightful colour pictures illustrating Amanda Barton's article ('Awakening the Kids', TL54,6 ), with smiling children busily enjoying their classwork, gladdened the heart, but the text was altogether less gladdening, vainly clutching at straws as it does. I was left with the sense of a rather desperate and now all too familiar attempt to put a brave face on the parlous state of language teaching in primary schools and on the absence of any coherent progression into secondary. Language awareness programmes are a poor substitute for language learning programmes and are clearly a result of inadequate provision of human and material resources. Would you consider setting up a sports centre without the necessary trained personnel and equipment? Why is agreement on what constitutes "substantial progress" debatable? Is there no defined content syllabus or performance criteria to measure achievement against? Not even a third of state secondary schools can provide the language primary pupils have already studied. Is this not wasteful of primary teacher and pupil achievement? Such failure is not new. In the wake of the trail-blazing language teaching initiatives in primary schools in the 1960s, we secondary school teachers were advised to devise new syllabuses for pupils with prior language studies. Because provision and levels of achievement were so varied, this became an impossible task and was abandoned. Primary language teaching was also abandoned. It seems to me that the prospects for yet another primary school language teaching project and its carry over into secondary level already look less than promising. Moreover, candidate numbers for A-level MFL exams are in steady decline. Fewer study languages to degree level and even fewer go into teacher training. Significant numbers of newly qualified teachers give up within four years. The status of MFL education over the years has invariably been precarious. The evidence suggests it will, tragically, continue to be so. David Smith FCIL 26 The Linguist Vol/55 No/2 2016 OPINION & COMMENT Star letter This issue's Star Letter writer wins a BBC Active Talk Complete self-taught course. For a chance to win your choice of course (French, Italian, German or Spanish), share your views via Email with your views Bish bash bosh: Jamie in German In my opinion, translating 'wicked fish' and 'To.Die.For' ('Across the Cultural Divide', TL55,2) do not present any serious problems for a German translator. For the first I would say ein genialer Fisch or ein klasse Fisch, and for the second Zum Niederknien!!!. I guess leaving out the idiom, even though it is perfectly doable, proves that the popularity of Jamie Oliver in Germany is solely based on the quality and practicality of his recipes, and has nothing to do with class. Dr Susanne Meyer-Abich MCIL I applaud the change from GCSE coursework assessments representing 60% of the final grade to an examination-only final grade ('GCSE: In with the new', TL55,1). The former is too vulnerable to abuse, by student and teacher alike. A final grade assessed 100% externally is much more likely to indicate the true abilities of the student. Why does it "cause great concern… that students will need to be able to translate short passages into English and the TL [target language]"? Isn't that an essential part of learning a foreign language? Granted they must also be able to write essays in the TL, to understand the spoken TL and to speak it, but the ability to translate is just as important. Finally, may I speak up for the much maligned GCE O-level assessments as they existed in the late 1950s? They contained no coursework. Examinations consisted of translation into and from the TL, an essay, a dictation and an oral (one-to-one). In no case did one have any advance idea of what the questions would be – and rightly so. Would it be a surprise to hear that such conditions still enabled me to benefit from fluency in French and German for 32 years of my 42-year career? Chalk and talk, without coursework assessment, does actually work. Alastair Purcell MCIL In defence of 'chalk and talk' JAMIE OLIVER COOKING AT SCANDIC (CC BY 3.0)

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Linguist - The Linguist 55,2