[lg policy] Teach Mandarin, Urdu and Arabic to save language learning says report
haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Oct 26 11:18:06 EDT 2018
Teach Mandarin, Urdu and Arabic to save language learning says report
[image: Reform Scotland argues modern languages taught in schools are not
keeping up with Scottish society]
Reform Scotland argues modern languages taught in schools are not keeping
up with Scottish society
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A long term decline in the study of modern languages at school has sparked
becoming increasingly isolated in the world.
But a new report argues our population now speaks more languages than ever
before thanks to the establishment of communities from across the globe.
There are now 158 languages spoken by Scottish pupils at home with the most
common after English including Polish, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic and Chinese.
The report by the Reform Scotland has called on schools to harness the
language expertise in such communities to lead a revolution in language
- *Read more: Review call after fall in pupils studying modern languages*
The findings come as figures from the Scottish Qualification Authority
(SQA) show entries in traditional languages have decreased over the last 20
Entries for Higher French are down by more than 18 per cent while entries
for Higher German dropped by nearly 60 per cent.
Reform Scotland called for an end to distinctions between so-called
“community” languages and other modern languages.
Chris Deerin, director of Reform Scotland, said: “If we want to see genuine
growth in language skills rather than just paying lip service to the idea
we need to rethink our approach.
“There is a danger the languages currently on offer within the education
system are not keeping up with Scottish or global society.
“We need to think much more freely - as many other countries do - about how
best to equip ourselves to thrive in the modern global economy.”
Dr Thomas Bak, from Edinburgh
Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, who contributed to the
report, said the decline in French and German was part of a natural
“A century ago the main discussion was between the modern and the classical
languages of Latin and Ancient Greek and we need to adjust the offer of
languages in schools to the times we live in.
“Giving community languages recognition could lead to a virtuous circle
where children from immigrant are families more likely to learn them, they
will become better in languages in general and native English-speakers
might also get interested in learning them.”
- *Read more: Teachers "ill-prepared" for primary languages roll-out*
However, the report sparked concerns that the introduction of more
languages would over-crowd an already cramped curriculum.
Dr Dan Tierney, an independent languages expert, said the Scottish
strategy was already confusing.
Under its 1+2 policy pupils are expected to learn two additional languages
as well as their mother tongue.
Critics argue a failure to focus resources on languages such as French,
Spanish, German and Italian in primary schools will lead to further
Mr Tierney said: “The government suggests pupils are learning two languages
when the reality is they are not learning in depth in a crowded curriculum
and there is lack of continuity into secondary.
“The focus should be on developing language learning skills through key
languages which will be an easier start than Chinese, which belongs at a
“The introduction of Polish, Urdu and Arabic will only help to muddle the
existing situation even more.”
Helen Chambers, Emeritus Professor of German at St Andrews University
backed the report’s call for an end to the distinction between modern and
However, she warned against “playing down” the drop in uptake of French and
- *Read more: Teaching Mandarin "misplaced"*
She said: “As we prepare for Brexit
is a stronger argument than before for political, economic and cultural
ties to the major member states, Germany and France, to be strengthened not
weakened by language policy.
“The experience of Germany with its strong economy and uniquely humane
stance on migration is one that Scottish language-learners would do well to
And Gillian Campbell-Thow, chairwoman of the Scottish Association for
Language Teaching, warned of the need for qualified teachers in secondary
She said: “The will is there, but we cannot expand a teaching portfolio
without recognised progression routes for teachers and pupils.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said pupils were speaking more languages
than they had ever done.
He added: “Language learning builds the skills which young people need for
an increasingly globalised world and we welcome all input into ongoing
discussion about how to further encourage language learning.”
Since 2013, the Scottish Government has made an additional £27 million
available to councils to help implement the 1+2 language policy.
Harold F. Schiffman
Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138
Email: haroldfs at gmail.com
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