Tag Archives: scotland foreign languages

Scots Urged to Learn Foreign Languages

Stewart Paterson in eveningtimes.co.uk, June 21, 2013:

f you had to rely on a Google translation of the above introduction, don’t worry because that is where I went to check it was correct.

It says, ‘This week I would like to speak about languages’.

French, or any other language other than English for that matter, is not my strongest point and in that respect I am far from alone in this country.

Holyrood’s European Committee has just given its report on its inquiry into foreign language learning in primary schools.

It recommends we teach one foreign language from primary one right through to secondary school.

Wow. Radical or what?

How many times have you been left stumped in another country when faced with someone who does not speak English?

How many times have you heard someone from these islands speak in a slow, monosyllabic, child-like voice trying to get their point across to a native on a foreign holiday?

Then they bemoan the fact the person does not speak English, without a hint of irony.

As a nation we need to drastically improve our modern language capability.

The committee rightly raised concerns about the ability to deliver the ambition of teaching two foreign languages.

From where we are today it will take decades to get up to speed with most of our European neighbours.

It will require a massive investment in training primary school teachers to have the capability required to deliver effective language teaching to primary pupils that will allow further study.

There is also a need for a willingness to change the attitudes of some people that there is less of a need for our people to learn a foreign language because so many others speak ours.

This lazy attitude is holding people back because learning a language provides for a better educated population.

It will also make us more outward in our outlook, and mean more people will be able to grasp opportunities in a global world.

The benefits for foreign trade and investment are obvious in an international economy and the more people we have speaking other languages the better.

There is a certain irony that Glasgow is preparing to host the Commonwealth Games next year welcoming people from all over the world many of whom speak English because their ancestors were forced to speak a foreign language, English, as a result of colonialism.

The independence referendum means other countries in Europe and beyond are taking an interest in Scotland and following the constitutional debate with interest, many by reading our news online, in English.

It is about time we made a serious effort to catch up, even if it does take 25 years.

Au revoir, adios, arrivederci.


Leave a comment

Filed under articles

Diplomats Protest Foreign Language Teaching in Scotland

From Scotland on Sunday, December 3, 2011:

FOREIGN diplomats in Scotland have banded together in a unique protest sparked by fears over how foreign languages are taught in our schools.

They fear that unless something is done Scottish pupils will lose out in the international market.

Consul generals from five of the country’s major trading partners – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and China – have expressed their joint concern over an 80 per cent fall in the number of foreign language assistants (FLAs) teaching in Scotland’s schools over the past five years.

They claim the reduction has been caused by financial cutbacks by councils and warn that if the trend continues future generations of Scots will be at a disadvantage compared with overseas students.

The cutbacks have emerged despite a Scottish Government aspiration that all pupils will eventually study two foreign languages. It says modern languages are “central” to the success of the Curriculum for Excellence, the controversial teaching framework introduced in August 2010.

But figures compiled by the British Council, which manages the FLAs programme, show that the number of teaching assistants from overseas has fallen from 285 in 2005/6 to 59 this year.

The five countries have trade links with Scotland worth around £4.5 billion a year. They point out that the cost of hiring a foreign language assistant is just £8,000 a year.

Javier Jiménez-Ugarte, consul general of Spain, said: “The Spanish Consulate General regards the dramatic reduction in numbers of foreign language assistants in Scottish schools as one of alarming concern. As native speakers who use the language naturally, FLAs provide an opportunity for young learners to speak another language for real.”

Pierre-Alain Coffinier, consul general of France, said: “Learning a language is not only about learning vocabulary and grammar, but about being able to develop self-confidence, communication and intercultural skills in a foreign language and culture. That is the key to opening Scottish youngsters’ horizons and to broaden their prospects in life.”

Lloyd Anderson, director of the British Council in Scotland, said: “As the most senior diplomats to Scotland from their respective nations, the consuls general are living proof of the importance of language learning for intercultural dialogue. Their alarm at the decline in foreign language assistants must be taken seriously.

“By allowing our foreign language assistant intake to dwindle so sharply, Scotland could be hampering efforts to encourage our young people to continue studying languages to a high level. In the long run, this could undermine our ambition to increase trade and investment with other countries.”

The British Council manages the foreign language assistants programme with a grant from the Scottish Government but individual local authorities decide whether to take on and pay for them. Schools are currently expected to offer at least one modern language no later than P6, although there is no specification over which language that should be. It is expected that all pupils should continue to study a foreign language to at least the end of S3, although there is no statutory requirement for this.

The Scottish Government’s target is that all pupils will eventually study two foreign languages in addition to English from primary school.

A spokesman for Cosla said spending priorities were decided by individual councils, but added: “Along with other important subjects the teaching of foreign languages in Scottish schools remains a crucial part of our education system.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “Foreign language assistants make a valuable contribution to Scottish schools, enhancing classroom learning through ‘real life’ language practice, and we welcome the fact that consular officials here in Scotland recognise this valuable input and are keen to see it continue.

“Our Languages Working Group will consider how they can help deliver our ambitions to boost language learning in Scotland’s schools.”

Leave a comment

Filed under articles