[lg policy] More inspiring teachers' needed to tackle UK's language skills shortage

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Wed Nov 11 16:45:16 UTC 2015

More inspiring teachers' needed to tackle UK's language skills shortage

By Cambridge News
 |  Posted:
November 11, 2015

By Adam Care


   Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett

Comments (1)

More inspiring teaching is needed to prevent Britain falling further behind
in foreign language skills, a Cambridge linguist has claimed.

Last week Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett welcomed over 100 representatives
from assorted Whitehall departments, including the MOD and GCHQ, to Murray
Edwards College, for a debate on the future of the UK's language policy.

Speaking to the *News *after the conference she said improving language
teaching in schools would have far-reaching benefits for the nation as a

She said: "It was a very wide-ranging group of people, with a lot of civil
servants coming together, which is very important.
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"Language policy is not just about education, but what we were trying to
shown is the lack of languages in the UK is such a problem for cases like
diplomacy, conflict resolution and business.

"Nationally Arabic speakers tend to be very useful, and that might be
something that could be added into the curriculum."

She added: "I think the government is trying very hard to save some of the
languages under threat, ones which have been highlighted by the MOD as
important to the country.

"When they were looking for a speaker of Somali they could only find one,
and when there is a need nationally to respond to a particular crisis there
is not necessarily that talent available."

Nationally the numbers of students taking a language at A-level are down 28
per cent since 1996, while over 40 UK universities have closed their
language departments since 2000.

A French specialist, Prof Ayres-Bennett said the best teachers were often
focusing too much on latter school years at the expense of Key Stage 3,
leading younger pupils to become disillusioned with studying languages.

"One possibility is to ensure that there are high-quality teachers at this
level", she said.

"All too often the best teachers are reserved for GCSE and A-level classes
and pupils at Key Stage 3 describe lessons as dull.

"If teaching is more inspiring at KS3, this should encourage more pupils to
carry on with languages at GCSE and beyond."

The workshop was chaired by Baroness Coussins, co-chair of the all-party
parliamentary group on modern languages, who called for a 'National
Languages Recovery Programme' to embed language skills in UK education, and
ensure Britain is able to compete on the global stage.

Prof Ayres-Bennett added: "When we teach languages in an interesting way
pupils get very excited and motivated, so that's very important, and I
think we have to respond to what children want."

She also suggested a wider range of languages could be taught in schools.

"One in five UK primary schools children has another tongue other than
English, and that's an important linguistic resource that needs to be
exploited", she said.

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