The Linguist

The Linguist 55,3

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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Page 8 of 35 JUNE/JULY 2016 The Linguist 9 level. Moreover, there is a growing preference for joint rather than single honours degrees, and some teacher training programmes are willing to accept such graduates. It is likely that many do not have the level of cultural and linguistic knowledge and fluency that one might assume essential to good language teaching. It is now not unusual for MFL student teachers to have studied little or no foreign literature during their university courses, and not to have spent a period of study abroad. Over the past decade it has become almost mandatory for those training to teach in the secondary sector to offer two foreign languages. For most student teachers educated in England, this means teaching a language they have only learned to A level, sometimes only to GCSE. As one young teacher noted: "With fewer people specialising in languages on their own, and more people taking languages as a bolt-on, the pool of future teachers will inevitably bring with them their ideas of what languages are for. Furthermore, there does seem to be a problem in terms of language aptitude and subject knowledge on ITT [initial teacher training] courses where more than one language is required. For example, roughly a third of my PGCE cohort did not have conversational fluency in their second language and were required to take booster courses. Some even had to start from scratch." She added: "With the new curriculum I feel that many teachers feel anxious that they are not suitably qualified to teach the more cultural elements of languages because their education did not provide them with the subject knowledge required. This is symptomatic of the recruitment crisis in general." 3 Teachers without sufficient subject knowledge are less confident, less experimental and probably less effective in their teaching. The job is likely to be less enjoyable and more stressful for them. Poor subject knowledge is one of the hidden reasons that contribute to MFL teachers leaving the profession. The ever-expanding cohort of (mainly) European nationals who are keen to train to teach in England make a welcome contribution to the quality of subject knowledge IN UNION An NUT protest in April 2016 against the forced 'academisation' of all schools in England, a policy which has since been withdrawn. Unions point to academies, with their own pay and working conditions, as being partly responsible for the teaching crisis across MFL departments. However, the specific training needs of this group, which relate more to learning to teach in the English school system, both from a cultural and a pedagogic point of view, are often under-estimated and poorly addressed. As a result, student teachers and NQTs from other countries account for a higher withdrawal rate from ITT courses and a lower employment rate upon qualification. A significant proportion of this group leave teaching in England after two or three years. There is a need to recognise and support the specific needs of these native speaker trainees. Learning to teach in another country requires a period of acculturation as well as targeted pedagogical support. There are many languages teachers in schools all over England who believe in the value of learning other languages as a fundamental part of a young person's education. They recognise the importance of achieving good exam results, but they know also that these are not the only measure of successful language learning. It may seem a cliché, but love of one's subject is a teacher's most important asset. MFL teachers who are linguistically confident and culturally curious are likely to be more open to experimenting with new ideas, approaches to teaching and curriculum content. They are more likely to cope with the sometimes excessive institutional demands and accountability measures that are thrust upon them. More importantly, they are more likely to inspire in their learners a love of language learning – and that's the best reason to stay in teaching. Notes 1 Perks, D (2009) 'Expel Middle Managers from UK Schools', spiked 3.6, 2 Salt, T 'The Role of Multi-Academy Trusts and Why Nick Gibb is Nearly Right'. In Simons, J (ed), The Importance of Teachers, London, Policy Exchange; Smart, S et al (2010) 'Processes of Middle-Class Reproduction in a Graduate Employment Scheme'. In Journal of Education and Work 22 (1), 35-53 3 MFL teacher in correspondence with the author, April 2016 © SHUTTERSTOCK

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