Vive la langue française?

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La semaine dernière Toutes Changer s’il vous plaît! was en vacances en France having le bon temps. Beaucoup, il ya many années Toutes Changer s’il vous plaît! has étudiéd le français à l’école, ‘just in case’ il could be utile un jour. Malheureusement, ce n’ est pas être le case, et il estime that it wasted beaucoup de temps et d’efforts pour peu de return, mais il est surprised combien vocabulary il se souvient encore après tout ce temps.

Eh bien, that’s quite enough of that. So, why do we spend so much time teaching children French at school? Back in the mid 20th Century France was probably the foreign country you would be most likely to visit, and it was considered essential for entry to Oxbridge. And apparently if you learn one language it makes it easier to learn others. Going even further back it was the official court language, which of course the ‘educated’ needed to be able to speak. But these days we travel globally, and the vast majority of people we meet speak at least some English, or know someone who does. If they don’t, then Spanish, German or Mandarin would be likely to be far more helpful, especially for business purposes. And then of course there is also Google Translate, and all those clever little apps that are now nearly as good as the legendary Babel fish, that make learning a language much less of a necessity.

For the vast majority of children of course their work or leisure time is unlikely to require GCSE level fluency in a foreign language. While All Change Please! supports the idea of all children perhaps learning some useful everyday French, or even better German or Spanish, at a young age, it wonders if five further years of academic study to GCSE (England) French level for everyone is really appropriate?

Meanwhile, according to this article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationopinion/10126883/Why-learn-a-foreign-language-Benefits-of-bilingualism.html  there are a number of wider benefits to learning a foreign language. These include:

  • improved test scores in maths and English
  • the development of multi-tasking skills
  • a possible delay in the onset of dementia
  • improved memory recall
  • becoming more perceptive
  • more logical decision-making.

Maybe, agrees All Change Please!, but these benefits are hardly acquired uniquely by learning a foreign language and can be gained in other ways too, and in the context of a somewhat wider skill-set.

And while we’re talking about learning different languages, what about coding languages? The jury is still out as to whether everyone needs to learn how to code, and, while it might provide lucrative employment for a few gifted students, like so many other things, the repetitive, boring day-to-day, factory-level work will be out-sourced to another country where they do things cheaper. So what we really need is what other countries can’t provide – at least for now – that is an agile, creative approaches to the solving and implementation of complex and innovative IT solutions that successfully utilise well-designed user interfaces. Do we really need a generation of children capable of nothing more than whatever the coding equivalent of Franglais is? Hmm. Perhaps it will come to be called Codlish?

Meanwhile, All Change Please! is pleased to be able to say that it drank le bon vin, took un bateau pour un château et de manger quelque chose beaucoup de gâteau

Le All Change Please! got by with a little help from Google Translate and Tricia Translate.

Image credit: Fickr, wiseige  http://www.flickr.com/photos/whizzer/6078576560

4 comments on “Vive la langue française?

  1. The main reason for learning another language I believe here is overlooked. Which is being able to understand things from a different perspective and understanding that what you say can be interpreted in many different ways and have unintended consequences.
    In the creative industry I would say this ability is vital for generating new ideas and iterating on old ones.
    Communication is perhaps the most important key to being able to deliver things successfully in the future. For example, in industry the conversation between a client, a designer and a programmer is not so disimilar to a conversation between an englishman, frenchman and german. Each have different words, and ways of expressing what are essentially the same ideas and goals, but only by bringing everyone to the same understanding and agreement can we move forward.
    Learning a language which is not your mother tongue teaches you both humility and empathy which are very useful skills.
    I would even go so far as to say it should be mandatory that every teenager spends a minimum of six months abroad getting fluent in their chosen language with a host family. If nothing else it would break down some of the xenophobia, ignorance and misconceptions so rife bubbling under the surface of British society and maybe we would get some interesting new ideas coming out of the fusion.

  2. First I entirely agree that poor communication is a major failing at present, and that this could be improved in language lessons. But I think the key word you use is ‘conversation’, and conversational French (or whichever language) is not given enough priority in academic courses. I also agree that we need a much broader cultural awareness and understanding – again something that could be given greater emphasis in courses. But again, why the emphasis on French?

    • I guess it could be argued that France is the closet country to us and therefore the cheapest to bundle a whole load of students on to a ferry to? So it’s probably a question of a hangover to outdated economics.
      Obviously in school2.0 students would be allowed to try learning many languages online and pick which one most suited them to get proficient in and then be helped to find a peer to study with from that country and then do a sponsored exchange when they came of age. Maybe even, they would not even learn it in school!?! But be allowed out early to go to a specialist language exchange near their homes…
      Further I would even say the less prominent the language the better, why not learn Estonian or Hindi if you want to? If you pick a language with a small number of English/Estonian speakers you are probably more likely/motivated to find a use for it later in life, rather than the thousands of ‘mass produced’ students who come out of school with no hope of ever using the French they learned.
      The thing about school language learning, is that it’s massively ineffective, they forgot the primary tenant of learning which is : “The best time to learn something is just after the person has discovered it is needed.”
      You don’t need to be super prescriptive about how to teach someone a language, just pop them in an environment where they have to speak it to survive and they will learn the same amount of five years of french class in a few months.

  3. Because it’s a beautiful language and France is a great place for a holiday. However, I don’t think it should be a curriculum requirement until we get the little darlings managing their own language, which seems to be beyond many of them these days.

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