The Linguist

The Linguist 55,4

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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generation of multimedia language courses appeared, designed to meet the specific requirements of the National Curriculum. A topic-based approach became the norm, and the topics chosen revolved around the lives and supposed interests of young people in the UK, often with very little reference to the foreign culture. This led to a significant erosion of language teachers' autonomy as the dawn of the 21st century saw an increased level of prescription and micro- management of schools by government, which grew over the following decade. The challenge to improve 'standards' in education, mainly in relation to school league 18 The Linguist Vol/55 No/4 2016 FEATURES Shirley Lawes asks if it's time to ditch languages textbooks a C alls to abandon the use of textbooks in modern foreign languages (MFL) teaching come mostly from technology enthusiasts who see textbooks as anachronistic. The argument is that young people are 'digital natives' and expect technology to be the central source for their learning. They respond more positively to this familiar medium than to traditional teaching. What is more, digital learning materials are more effective and adaptive to the differing ways that students acquire information, it is claimed. It is easy to slip into a very reductive view of language learning, to talk of it as a skill and to ignore other more important aspects, not least the importance of cultural knowledge.There is a lot to question and discuss about the value and place of technology in the languages classroom and it is wrong to present the issue as a simple textbook versus technology debate. A heavy reliance on any type of pre-formulated and professionally produced resources, be it digital or paper- based, can be prescriptive and restrictive; although, at the same time, reassuring. The tendency to rely almost exclusively on textbooks, which existed in the days of the traditional 'grammar-translation' approach to language learning, was challenged in the 1970s and early 1980s as methodologies and technologies developed. For a short period, teachers were able to experiment with audio- visual materials of various sorts. The BBC and ITV became seriously involved in producing programmes and courses for both school and adult learners, and there was a period of innovation in language teaching that was embraced by schools to a limited extent, where resources permitted. Teachers then had the freedom to experiment and the professional know-how to design and develop a languages curriculum for a much wider range of learners as the shift to comprehensive education heralded a 'Languages for All' policy during the 1970s. Gradually, the traditional textbook became a thing of the past, and new languages courses including professionally produced visual and audio materials were adopted by most secondary schools. Encouraged by the 'new' communicative approach, teachers sought materials that emphasised oral competence and would dip in and out of course books, which were increasingly seen as a support rather than to be slavishly followed. 'Authentic materials' were the order of the day. During holidays abroad, teachers would collect leaflets, bus tickets, menus and other realia to use in their lessons. There was a recognition that textbooks, on the whole, failed to motivate this new generation, and there was an enthusiasm in the most quarters of the profession for finding ways of making language learning accessible to all young people. A formulaic approach The National Curriculum, introduced in 1988, was a huge sea change which necessarily introduced a significant degree of prescription to the languages curriculum in the early years of secondary school. Once again the textbook regained popularity as a new Tearing up the book

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