Local French teacher bringing renewed energy to language learning

Local French teacher Alice Watson shares with us some thoughts on language below.

Have you ever felt demoralised on holiday when a waiter has effortlessly slipped into perfect English to rescue your valiant but ineffective attempts to order a drink? How has this national stereotype come about? We are not a nation of fools and yet compared to every other European country our language skills look pitiful and it is not doing us any favours economically.

A recent European Commission study of language competencies found that 9% of 14 to 15 yr olds in the UK have a workable knowledge of a second language, compared to 42% across the 14 other countries surveyed; Sweden and Malta reached 82% and the Netherlands 66%. Whilst British students drop MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) at GCSE in their droves, since being able to do so in 2004 and university faculties are forced to close, UK businesses are hankering after language-skilled employees, 72% of businesses confirm this. The nation is estimated to lose 48 billion pounds a year due to lack of language proficiency. The time is nigh to bring colour to this bleak picture, government policy makes ‘one language well-taught over four years’ compulsory in our primary schools from September. Will this be enough to throw off the tired national stereotype?

Consumption of English-speaking mass media from an early age is the reason our foreign counterparts pick up excellent language skills so easily. There are proven physical differences in brain development for those who learn a second language from an early age, these are more pronounced the younger the child; which explains why an adult learning a language for the first time often feels so lost, the brain is structurally ill-equipped to cope with it. Creating ‘language readiness’ in our children must be fundamental in our education in an increasingly globalised world.

For children, obviously, it needs to be fun. No one wants to subject their child to the mind-numbingly boring language lessons of yester year, partly responsible for generations of poor skills. Numbing the mind is not an effective teaching strategy! Classes need to be inspirational, playful, and creative in order to stimulate the brain into absorbing new structures and vocabulary.

The immersive tactics of the Europeans works wonders and the internet provides us with the opportunity to incorporate MFL discreetly into our daily lives; check my Facebook page for ideas and information about classes, www.facebook.com/FrenchClubBristol and ‘Like’ it too!

French Club after school classes are for primary-aged children. The structured, though informal classes promise to be packed with fun, games, creative activities and ample opportunity to practise newfound language skills. Please get in touch if you would like your child to attend; I am currently taking names and forming classes to begin in the spring.

Alice Watson [email protected]

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