Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

A radical solution for saving languages

Posted on July 7th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Education, Indigenous languages | Leave a Comment »

An Australian town has come up with a radical solution to revive the local Aboriginal language – and has had some amazing results.

The Wiradjuri language is learned by about 10% of the population every week in Parkes, a town in New South Wales. It’s taught in all primary schools as well as high school and TAFE colleges. Learning the language has taught much more than words – it’s given people a purpose, sense of culture and connection to their community.

Ron Wardrop was quiet for a while when I asked him why language mattered to him. “We need to keep the languages strong,” he said. “Like a river, the water tells a story, it just keeps flowing on and on, like generations of people telling stories. If that river dries up, then that knowledge and that flow of language and culture – which gives people a strong sense of connection to self and country – is going to die away. And that would be a sad thing.” Ron understands all too well what’s at stake when language and culture is lost. “If the kids don’t feel they have a sense of belonging, self, Aboriginality, then they feel they don’t have anything. And that’s exactly how I felt when I was a kid.” (Source: ABC)

This story just goes to show that there’s more to languages than words – they can have a much wider benefit.

British children behind in languages by age 3

Posted on June 23rd, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Following last week’s news that the primary school curriculum is to be changed to make a second language compulsory from age seven, a new study says British children are behind in languages by age three.

The study was completed by language experts, who revealed that English-speaking countries devote the least amount of time to foreign-language learning. Language learning in primary schools is voluntary in English-speaking countries including England, Australia and the US.

But the report also said: “There are greater challenges in implementing primary languages for policy makers in English-speaking countries than there are in the rest of the world.”

In English-speaking countries, it adds, “there is no one language which everyone wants to learn”.

It is also often argued in the UK that learning another language is unnecessary because English is the universal language of business. However, the report concludes: “The assumption that English speakers do not need to learn other languages because others are learning ours is damaging to our economy.”

The report does not come up with an optimum age for learning a foreign language but says an early start is essential. “Unless language learning starts early, it is argued, learners will be unable to take advantage of the natural capacity young children have to acquire language instinctively,” it says. (Source: The Independent)

When did you start learning languages? Do you wish you’d got a head start in primary school?

Languages compulsory from age seven

Posted on June 16th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Following the news that Scottish schools are considering overhauling the language curriculum, English primary schools are following suit.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, is expected to announce that learning a language will be compulsory from the age of seven for English children. In addition, there will be a “new focus” on spelling and grammar.

[Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg] welcomed the government’s ideas, saying: “I think it’s absolutely right. Children will get a love of languages if they start them young.”

Under Mr Gove’s plans, primary schools could offer lessons in Mandarin, Latin and Greek, as well as French, German and Spanish.
The Department for Education said that where English teaching was concerned, the aim was to ensure that pupils left primary school with high standards of literacy. (Source: BBC News)

Queen Victoria’s Journals

Posted on May 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Education, English | Leave a Comment »

Britain is currently celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The first monarch to reach this milestone is Queen Victoria.

To celebrate both queens, Queen Victoria’s journals have been released by the Royal Archives for public viewing. Previously they were only accessible to academics via the Archives; now digitised images are freely available on a specially designed website.

Over 43,000 pages of the Queen’s private thoughts are available, which include her marriage to Albert, births of her children and the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace. The diaries begin when Victoria was 13, and continue up until 10 days before her death.

It’s interesting to see both the Queen’s handwriting and that of her daughter, Princess Beatrice, who transcribed some of the diaries. There are also a number of illustrations of family and friends. Take a peek at Victorian English – a fascinating resource.

Scottish schools language overhaul

Posted on May 25th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

My last post was about a new study suggesting schools keep track of languages spoken by ethnic minority pupils.

Scottish schools may soon need to keep track of languages spoken by all pupils, with the news that the Minister for Learning said there should be an overhaul of language learning in schools. The Scottish Government is to investigate opportunities for all students to learn a second language from P1. Another suggestion was that starting to learn a third language should happen no later than P5.

Dr Allan said:

“The world is changing rapidly and radically and the Government has a duty to ensure that Scottish schools prepare young people so they can flourish and succeed in the globalised, multi-lingual world we now live in.

“One indisputable aspect of modern life is that more people travel widely for jobs and leisure and we must respond accordingly; we will not be as successful as a country and economy if we remain essentially a mono-lingual society.

“The Scottish Government is committed to radically improving the provision of modern languages in our schools. We see the Barcelona Agreement to the ‘1+2’ arrangement – learning two languages in addition to the mother tongue – as key to delivering this commitment. This is unique within the UK and will bring us more into line with other EU member states. (Source:

This is a different approach than that taken by the rest of the UK, which will be of great benefit to students if they are able to continue their progression throughout their schooling.

Linguistic minorities in English schools

Posted on May 21st, 2012by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

A new report says schools should keep track of languages spoken by ethnic minority pupils.

Researchers from London Metropolitan University looked into which linguistic minorities struggle in education in England, and found that in some areas the data kept was imprecise. Previous studies found that pupils with a second language did better than the national average at GCSE level; however the researchers found this was only the case in inner London.

The report says that given the growing “super-diversity” of England and the rest of the UK, crude ethnic categories in government data mask the finer detail and may be getting in the way of understanding minority communities’ relative achievements and needs.

“If we are to get any closer closer to understanding the role of language, bilingualism and multilingualism in children’s relative attainment we need better data and more fine-grained analysis,” the report states. (Source: BBC News)

English switch for Italian university

Posted on May 16th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, English, Italian | Leave a Comment »

An Italian university has announced it will teach and assess its degree courses in English rather than Italian.

The change will be made from 2014 at the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading universities. The university, based in Milan, believes that it will be unable to compete on a global scale if it continues to use the Italian language.

“We strongly believe our classes should be international classes – and the only way to have international classes is to use the English language,” says the university’s rector, Giovanni Azzone.

“Universities are in a more competitive world, if you want to stay with the other global universities – you have no other choice,” says Professor Azzone. (Source: BBC News)

The professor believes other Italian universities will follow suit, as English has become the language of higher education and international business.

What do you think? Should universities teach in their country’s language, or switch to English? What will this change mean for the Italian language?

Pre-schoolers have language show

Posted on March 23rd, 2012by Michelle
In Culture, Education, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

A new programme on BBC kids channel CBeebies aims to introduce pre-schoolers to language and culture.

The Lingo Show is an eleven minute programme hosted by an animated bug named Lingo. Lingo then introduces other characters who sing about their country and culture. Children learn words in the different languages through the songs and repetition.

Wei is the character in the first episode, and introduces Mandarin Chinese words including numbers up to ten and colours. Later episodes feature a Spanish bug called Queso and French bug Jargonaise.

You can watch episodes on BBC iPlayer, and also visit the show’s companion website to sing along with songs from the episodes.

UK universities concerned by lack of language skills

Posted on January 28th, 2012by Michelle
In Education, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Top UK universities are emphasising the importance of language learning by requiring applicants to have a GCSE in a modern language.

In some counties two out of three children leave school without a language GCSE, with the study of French, German and Spanish “dying out” in some areas. UCL is this year set to become the first university to require applicants to have a modern language GCSE.

“We believe that knowledge of a modern foreign language and the possession of intercultural skills are an integral part of a 21st-century education,” a spokesman for the university said.

Entries for French in English schools have dropped by 59 per cent since 2001, from 347,000 to 141,800, while even Spanish and Italian — subjects that have remained relatively healthy in recent years — lost ground last year. The uptake of German has also dropped by more than half in the past decade and, for the first time, it has fallen behind Spanish.

The one silver lining has been the rapid growth of minority languages such as Russian and Urdu, although the figures are still relatively small. (Source: The Times)

Perhaps this importance should be stressed to school children when they’re selecting subjects to study at GCSE level.

Ebacc to boost language study?

Posted on November 30th, 2011by Michelle
In Education, English | Leave a Comment »

In the latest twist in the saga of language study for English schoolchildren, the shadow education secretary has announced his support for the English Baccalaureate.

The Ebacc is awarded to pupils who achieve C or better in English, maths, history or geography, sciences and a language at GCSE level. The number of pupils taking a language at GCSE level had dropped after the previous government made it non-compulsory.

[Stephen] Twigg – who said he regretted having given up Spanish when he was 14 – said Labour should have put foreign languages on the primary school timetable before scrapping the requirement for older children.

“I think the mistake we made was to do it the wrong way around. I would definitely make languages optional at 14, but what we should have done is had the primary languages approach first and then made the changes at 14. You can’t go back to making it compulsory.” (The Guardian)

Let’s hope this latest change in policy makes pupils aware of the benefits of studying a second language!