Monthly Archives: November 2012

British Support for Foreign Language Program

From education.gov.uk, November 23, 2012:

More than nine in 10 people back the Department for Education’s proposal to make foreign languages compulsory for primary school pupils aged seven to 11.

Responses to a consultation on the issue – launched in the summer – show overwhelming support for the plan.

The majority of respondents said all children benefited from learning a foreign language, including those whose first language is not English, children with special needs, and higher attaining pupils.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said the Government would now make foreign languages a statutory subject at Key Stage 2 from September 2014.

The reform is a further step in the Government’s drive to make foreign languages a key part of every child’s education, and to stop the slide in standards and take-up.

A major study of foreign languages skills among teenagers in Europe ranked England at the bottom of the table – underlining the Government’s need to prioritise the subject (see background for more information).

Including the subject in the EBacc has seen the number of GCSE pupils taking a language rise, and we are prioritising the teaching of foreign languages in our schools (see background for more information).

The Department for Education is also today launching a consultation on a proposal to give primary schools the freedom to choose to teach any one of seven foreign languages – the modern languages of French, Spanish, German, Italian and Mandarin and the classical languages of Latin and ancient Greek.

French, German and Spanish were the modern languages identified by respondents to the consultation as the most popular choices for primary schools, followed by Italian and Mandarin. These five are widely considered to be the key languages that will help young people succeed in later life. They give a good grounding for further languages study, at secondary school and beyond, and are important in the world of work.

Additionally Mandarin is vital for the economic future of our country, and is increasingly a world language. It also introduces pupils to the concept that not all languages use Roman script. Several primary schools already offer some basic Mandarin teaching.

The two classical languages are included to give primary schools further options. Latin and ancient Greek give a good grounding in grammar, syntax and vocabulary of a number of modern languages, including English.

Primary schools will be free to choose to teach any one of the languages on the list, and to teach any other language, if they want to, which can be on the list or not.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

The EBacc has not just arrested but reversed the decline in languages in our secondary schools. Now we will ensure that every primary school child has a good grasp of a language by age 11.

We must give young people the opportunities they need to compete in a global jobs market – fluency in a foreign language will now be another asset our school leavers and graduates will be able to boast.

She added:

Mandarin is the language of the future – it is spoken by hundreds of million of people in the world’s most populous country and shortly the world’s biggest economy.

Background – Internationally:

This summer, the first major study of foreign languages skills among Europe’s teenagers ranked England at the bottom of the table – underlining the Government’s drive to boost standards in the subject.

The European Survey on Language Competences – carried out by the European Commission with a consortium including Cambridge Assessment – compared the modern foreign language skills, in reading, listening and writing, of 15-year-olds in 16 jurisdictions on the continent (14 countries) in 2011.

It rated England:

bottom in reading, writing and listening in the main foreign language taught (French for English pupils);
worst in reading in the second foreign language taught (German for English pupils);
14th out of 16 in listening and writing in the second foreign language taught.
The study also found that pupils in England:

start learning a language later than average;
are taught it for fewer hours a week than average;
spend less time on homework than average;
do not see the benefit of a language as much as most other pupils in Europe; and
were significantly behind their peers, with only one per cent of foreign language students here able to follow complex speech. This compared with a Europe average of 30 per cent.
Sweden, Malta and the Netherlands headed the table, followed by Estonia, Slovenia and Croatia.

The EBacc is restoring foreign languages to secondary schools

The EBacc was introduced in January 2011.

54 per cent of GCSE pupils are set to take a language GCSE in summer 2014.
That is up from 43 per cent who took a language GCSE in summer 2010, and the highest proportion since summer 2005 when 60 per cent of pupils took a language GCSE.
In 2002, 75 per cent of pupils at the end of KS4 were entered for a language GCSE.
CfBT’s Language Trends Survey 2011 showed that 51 per cent of state secondary schools already have a majority of their pupils taking a language in Year 10, against 36 per cent in 2010. This proportion increased particularly among schools with higher levels of free school meal children.

Quality of teaching

For the allocation of initial teacher training places from 2012/13, primary courses that offer a specialism, particularly in the sciences, maths or modern languages, will be prioritised. For 2013/14 the Government expects to adjust financial incentives or trainees to favour trainees on specialist primary courses with a good A level in maths, a science, or a language, over those on generalist courses.

Notes to editors

Modern Foreign Languages is currently a compulsory National Curriculum subject in maintained schools in England at Key Stage 3 only.

In January 2011 the Government launched a review of the National Curriculum. After consideration of evidence from other countries, advice from key stakeholders and responses to the review’s Call for Evidence, the Government’s Expert Panel for the review recommended that the teaching of languages should be introduced earlier in the National Curriculum. Following this, on 11 June 2012, the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, announced the Government’s intention to add breadth to the primary curriculum by requiring all maintained schools in England to teach a foreign language at Key Stage 2, from Year 3 to Year 6. There were 318 responses.

A further statutory consultation on the proposed content for the Programmes of Study will take place in the New Year.

The report on the completed consultation can be found on the Department’s website.

The consultation launched today can also be found on the Department’s website.

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Modern Language Association Annual Convention

The 128th MLA Annual Convention will take place in Boston from January 3-6, 2013. Program and hotel information can be obtained from http://www.mla.org/convention

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Intel Official Calls Language ‘Central’ to New Strategy

Natela Cutler, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, for U.S. Department of Defense (defense.gov/News), November 6, 2012:

MONTEREY, Calif., Nov. 6, 2012 – Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers was pleasantly surprised Nov. 3 when he encountered his former Spanish instructor at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center here while observing a Spanish language class.

“Although I was able to understand what was being discussed during the class, I was also a little bit worried, because I thought I was going to be re-tested in Spanish, which has atrophied somewhat,” Vickers said with a chuckle.

“It was wonderful to see my old student. When I saw his face, it all came back to me,” said Deanna Tovar, who had just begun her career as a Spanish instructor in the late 1970s when Vickers was her student and today is dean of the European and Latin American school.

“She was a great instructor, and I am not surprised to see her as the dean of the school and that she has done so well,” Vickers said.

As a young Special Forces soldier and then as an officer, Vickers graduated from the DLIFLC Czech course in 1977 and from the Spanish course in 1979 with top scores.
His unique experience at the Institute has influenced him throughout his career. Vickers has been credited for contributing to the withdrawal of Russian troops from Afghanistan in the 1980s. More recently, he was recognized as a key leader in the process that led to planning, locating, and killing the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

As a two-time DLIFLC graduate, Vickers was the featured speaker at the center’s 71st anniversary ball, attended by Defense Language Institute faculty, staff and leadership.

“When I was here for Czech, my professor told us that language is the most intimate expression of a nation’s culture,” he said. “I know DLI really teaches culturally based language instruction, and I have certainly found that true when I have used languages operationally as a Special Forces officer and as a CIA officer.”
As the Defense Department’s principal staff member and advisor regarding intelligence, counterintelligence, security and other intelligence-related matters, Vickers has a far-reaching view of how important foreign language and culture are to the future of national security.

“As we come out of a decade of wars, the world is getting more complicated, and there is more volatility, for example, across the Middle East,” he explained. “Having people with these [language] skills is tremendously valuable. If you are not going to have a lot there, you ought to have your best there.

“I think [language] is really central,” he continued. “Our new defense strategy focuses on Asia, North Africa and the Middle East region, and these skills will be paramount to that strategy.”

Though knowing some language goes a long way when conducting intelligence assignments or working in foreign countries in various capacities, Vickers said, high-level proficiency is vital for mission success. He used the Interagency Language Roundtable foreign language government scale to make his point.
“Higher-level skill is critical,” he said. “I have seen a number of times over the course of my career where even 3 Level Russian didn’t cut it on an important national security problem. You needed to be at the 4 Level to really exploit the intelligence that we need.”

Vickers, accompanied by Tim Clayton, the Defense Intelligence Senior Language Authority, and Glenn Nordin, his foreign language and area advisor, also observed an upper division 47-week Russian course called the Russian Arms Control Speaking Proficiency Course. The course is designed to prepare students to work for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, DOD’s official combat support agency for countering weapons of mass destruction.

Commenting on all the changes that have taken place at the Institute over the past three decades, Vickers said he was most impressed by DLIFLC’s strategic outreach that takes place in 29 locations around the world and includes sustainment and pre-deployment training.

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Montana State University Students Help Fill Foreign Language Gaps in School System

What a great idea!! Article by Jessianne Wright in msuexponent.com, November 15,2012:

Irving Elementary School 2nd grade students showed their enthusiasm when Lauren Hausauer arrived at their classroom last Wednesday. Hausauer, an MSU freshman, spent the 30-minute period teaching the students basic commands in Spanish. Her students learned the Spanish words for “look,” “listen,” “sit,” “stand” and “silence please,” and applied their new vocabulary by playing a game of “Simon Says” in Spanish.
Hausauer is teaching Spanish to elementary school students through a program developed by the MSU Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. This three-credit course, officially titled “Modern Languages 492: Teaching in the Public Schools,” runs from October until May.

Seven MSU students are participating in the program, which reaches out to students from Irving Elementary and Bozeman Summit Montessori schools. It was started several years ago to fill a foreign language gap left by funding cuts in the Bozeman public school system.

Now, without the MSU program, most young students would not be exposed to a different language, explained Irving 2nd grade teacher Jackie Grey.
Grey studied Spanish in high school and college and has been able to teach her class some basic vocabulary. However, this program exposes the students to a more in-depth study of the language.

In addition to teaching students a new language, the program allows the children to better understand English as they learn rules about grammar and mechanics, Grey explained, adding that learning multiple languages enhances memory and speech.
MSU students spend 30 minutes every school week teaching Spanish to their assigned elementary classes. They are given lesson plans which were created using a grant the department received from MSU’s Teaching and Learning Committee.

Lauren Hausauer teaching children at Irving Elementary School under the program “Teaching Spanish in the Public Schools”. Photos by Juan Diaz Martos.

Bridget Kevane and Sally Sanchez, both MSU Spanish instructors, prepared the lesson plans and purchased books, music and props for students to use in the classroom. Students have the freedom to creatively build on the provided plans, allowing them to return to past activities or incorporate books and games into each lesson.

“The material is presented in a variety of ways to meet the learning styles of all students,” Grey said.

Colin McClure, a double major in land rehabilitation and Hispanic studies, is also planning to teach at Irving. He has not started yet, but is looking forward to beginning and hopes to “excite [the students] and encourage them to expand and learn about different cultures.”

This program is “one of the best ways to engage [MSU] students,” Kevane said. “They experience what it is like to have kindergarten through 5th grade students hungry for language and culture.”

Students are assigned a grade level based on their position in the Spanish program. Upper-division students are typically assigned 4th or 5th grade, while 200-level students are assigned to kindergarten through 3rd grade.

Kevane hopes that students realize “the importance of introducing students at an early age to another language and culture,” and explained it is easy for young kids to become multilingual and appreciate foreign cultures.

MSU students give the program “tremendous energy, imagination [and] partnership,” Kevane said. “It is always inspiring when students rise to the challenge.”

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Foreign Language Learning Decline in English Schools

The following is an editorial by Ben Eve for internationalreporters.org, November 9, 2012:

Only 43% of 14-16 year old pupils in England studied a foreign language in 2012, a dramatic decline from 75% just 10 years before . However the government’s stance on the matter is unclear. The Prime Minister has continued the previous government’s £50 million campaign to increase the uptake of languages in primary schools with the aim of making them compulsory by 2020. However lessons are no longer compulsory after 14, the age at which pupils decide on the subjects to take for their final secondary school exams (GCSEs).

With such a decrease in popularity of foreign languages after this policy, the quality and style of teaching has come under question. “Students realise that even if they do get a GCSE in French, they still won’t be able to speak the language,” says language learning expert Paul Noble. “Even 18 year old students who come out of doing French A-levels can be surprised at what they can’t say – the teaching should be far more conversationally based.”

Christina Barningham is a 21 year old university student of German and Dutch: “I’m so glad I continued learning languages – I’m becoming friends with so many people I otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to get to know.”

However with English having become the world‘s most commonly spoken language, there is the common temptation for pupils to see learning foreign languages as unnecessary effort. A survey of British people on holiday in Europe revealed that only 11% could speak another language fluently. What’s more alarming is that 22% could not even say one foreign word.

“I am not going to spend months learning Greek just so I can chat to the locals a bit while I am on there on holiday for a week in Greece,” states Steffen Armstrong, a Music student in Edinburgh. “It may sound bad but that’s how it is – I don’t have any problems abroad because everyone can speak my language.”

A number of businesses in China, Japan and Sweden, for example, have even adopted English as the compulsary language in their offices because their worldwide clients use English both on the phone and on the internet. The English language is also frequently heard across the world within music and movies. As the language continues to spread, the desire for English pupils to learn other languages is likely to continue decreasing.

“English is dominant in a way that no language has ever been before,” states John McWhorter, a linguist at the Manhattan Institute. “It is vastly unclear to me what actual mechanism could uproot English given conditions as they are.”

While the government continues its contradictory policies, English pupils may not be sure of what they are encouraged to study. The effect of not learning a foreign language after the age of 14 remains to be seen, but The National Union of Teachers‘ head of education John Bangs expects it to only be negative: “The policy drift on modern foreign languages is unforgivable. It means more young people are ill-equipped for life in a global society.“

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Hungarian Government’s Foreign Language Decision

From Politics.Hu, November 6, 2012:

The education state secretariat plans to make German the main foreign language to be taught in schools, rather than English, news website Origo reports.

“From the point of view of language pedagogy it is proposed that pupils first encounter the German language, which has a more complex grammar structure than English.” according to the strategy.

The strategy would require pupils to take German-language exams every other year and could only sit higher entrance examinations from 2017 after passing language tests.

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A Plea to Retain Foreign Languages in Wyoming School

From WyomingNews.cocm, November 10, 2012:

Keep foreign language in Hathaway

“If we make foreign language an option, we’re going to put our students even farther behind.” — Leslie Boaz, French teacher, Wheatland High.

Lawmakers are not doing anyone a favor — not Wyoming high school students, not the state treasury — by making the Hathaway Scholarship program easier.

And make no bones about it: A bill to lift the foreign language requirement from the top two tiers of Hathaway will do just that. By letting students substitute either fine and performing arts or career and technical education courses for foreign languages, legislators will be cutting the rigors of a program that already is not rigorous enough.

If anything, the Legislature should be looking to make earning a Hathaway Scholarship tougher, not easier. That would force students to work harder to earn their state dollars and better prepare them for the challenges of higher education.

That was, after all, one of the reasons for making Hathaway merit-based: to force students to do better in high school on tougher classes. That in turn, as the experts know, would help them to succeed at either the university or at the community colleges.

The fact that Hathaway is too easy now is proven by a quick review of its retention rates.

At the lowest, or Career, level (which requires a GPA of 2.5 and an ACT of 17), about 17 percent of students lose their scholarships due to inadequate academic performance, wasting thousands of state dollars in the process. That compares to a failure rate of just 3 percent at the highest, or Honors, level (GPA 3.5, ACT 25). The second-highest level, Performance (GPA 3.0, ACT 21), is clocking in with a 91 percent success ratio.

We said from the very beginning that the Legislature’s desire to make the Hathaway program more inclusive would be a waste of money because students with lower ACT scores would not be college ready. These numbers clearly bear that out.

But now lawmakers want to reduce the rigors at the upper two levels, letting students in with lesser academic resumes simply to pacify teachers of the arts or vocational education.

We have nothing against this course work, but it does not provide the rigor that was supposed to be the hallmark of at least the upper two Hathaway levels. In fact, ACT has proven that the taking of a foreign language improves college readiness — the point of the Hathaway “success curriculum — in English. These other course areas do not do that.

Some argue that the foreign language requirement is shutting students out of some other areas of study. But those can be covered through electives.

As state Sen. Michael Von Flatern, R-Gillette, said at a recent hearing on the Hathaway proposal: “If it’s that important to students and parents, they can find time to put in the courses they want.”

We urge lawmakers to oppose this measure, which has the backing of the Joint Education Committee. Any measure that dumbs down Wyoming education should be opposed. And this proposal does just that.

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