A word in your shell-like iPhone

You probably read last week’s news about the recent English Bacc League tables. It’s shocking to discover that as many as 1 in 6 pupils are studying an extremely narrow academic curriculum (although the BBC wrote it another way round: ‘Just 1 in 6 have achieved the English Bacc’). And it seems that only 270 schools managed to achieve results in which none of its pupils successfully became encumbered by the Bacc qualification that would lead them towards wasting their time and money by attending university (or ‘as many as 216 schools scored zero’, as the BBC rather negatively put it). Which just goes to show it’s all about how it’s spun and reported.

Meanwhile Mr Gove signalled the possible return of a modern foreign language GCSE.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-12243936

And in The Independent, the head of the school that topped (I think they meant came bottom of?) the Bacc league table was quoted as saying….. “I’m a great fan of travel and learning at least one foreign language. The time has come to communicate rather than just shouting and assuming people speak English.”

Well, maybe. He obviously hasn’t seen this:

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/01/google-translate-real-time/

It can’t be long before a reasonably fluent translation service is available on all our mobile phones and iPad-type devices. I’m hoping someone somewhere is doing some serious research into its impact on language teaching and learning. For most tourists I would have thought it made the idea of learning a local language irrelevant, while at the same time, for those who understand the wider educational value of studying a second language and want to speak it fluently, it is also likely to make languages easier to learn. Whichever is the case, it will certainly disrupt academic language courses in schools. Or at least it ought to.

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