How do you Teach Languages – Part 2
We continue with the second part of our blog series about how to teach languages. In part one we saw that there were two conflicting views on this subject. The first being a more task-based attitude and the second was a more traditional format, using grammar and language rules.
Languages in the EEC
Britain has always been slated for being too lazy to properly teach their children languages, and a report by the European Commission back in 2011 highlighted this when Britain came joint last in how many languages were taught in schools. Many teachers and students in Britain are not convinced of the urgency of learning foreign languages when English is the most widely spoken language in the world and is also the common business language on the planet.
Putting the UK to one side for the moment, on average in Europe pupils start learning foreign languages at age seven. In some countries, such as Belgium, students start even younger – at three years old. Whilst in Norway, Italy and Spain, the students start learning languages at six years old. Elsewhere in Europe, countries such as Luxembourg have their students studying as many as four different languages in their curriculum.
Teaching Methods in the EEC
Most of Europe still use a grammar-based teaching curriculum, it is based on the assumption that students realize the importance of learning foreign languages for the future and therefore apply themselves diligently to their studies.
No matter what innovations are brought into the pedagogy of languages, the UK may be forever hindered by the students’ lack of understanding of their own language. In continental Europe, students spend far more time learning the structure and grammar of their native tongues at an early age. So, when it comes time to learn a foreign language, they are aware of the common rules and grammatical regulations.
Professor Hudson seems to agree with this idea, as he stated: the move towards communicative, task-based syllabuses in foreign languages was driven by the fact that teachers couldn’t talk about grammar because it had stopped being taught in English Lessons.
The Future for Teaching Languages in Europe
There is little wrong with the teaching of languages in most of Europe, the syllabuses are fine and the teaching techniques are advanced. Mainland Europeans see the need to learn foreign languages and, more importantly, the students want to learn.
The anomaly in Europe is the United Kingdom, who seem to have their own agenda when it comes to teaching and learning foreign languages. It seems fairly obvious that English being the World Language has led to a huge wave of complacency. Students do not feel any urgency to learn something they will never probably have to use apart from some interactions during holidays. Whereas a student in Sweden, for example, may want to go on and study a particular field of biology, and the only reference material is in English or has been translated from English. This student will see the need for learning English and realize how important it is.