Teach foreign languages from age five, says Gove

 
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Every child aged five or over should learn a foreign language, Education Secretary Michael Gove has said.

He told the Guardian that almost every other advanced country teaches a foreign language from that age, and the UK should set itself the same target.

Mr Gove vowed to "pull every lever" to make that happen, including encouraging schools to extend the working day.

The National Union of Teachers said any lessons must be well integrated into the whole primary curriculum.

Mr Gove criticised Britain's "perverse pride" in not knowing a foreign tongue.

But he also pointed out that some schools in deprived areas were already teaching five year olds Spanish - and that should be possible to replicate nationwide.

'Cultural outlook'

"If we pull all the levers, change teacher training... get schools that have language potential to take over under-performing schools, and we move the curriculum review in the right direction, then we can move towards the goal," he said.

"The number of pupils sitting a language GCSE plummeted from 444,700 in the summer of 1998 to 273,000 in 2010.

"Learning a foreign language, and the culture that goes with it, is one of the most useful things we can do to broaden the empathy and imaginative sympathy and cultural outlook of children."

He said learning languages improved people's brain power.

"Just as some people have taken a perverse pride in not understanding mathematics, so we have taken a perverse pride in the fact that we do not speak foreign languages, and we just need to speak louder in English," he said.

"It is literally the case that learning languages makes you smarter. The neural networks in the brain strengthen as a result of language learning."

He said one of the problems was that children were not in school long enough, and called on more head teachers to follow the example of academies and extend the day.

NUT general secretary Christine Blower said there was an advantage to learning an addition language at an early age.

But she added: "Many schools of course are already providing a language learning experience for children at primary level.

"There is a need to ensure this teaching is provided by qualified teachers and is well integrated into the whole primary curriculum."

The interview came on the eve of the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, which Mr Gove is due to address on Tuesday.

 

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  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 241.

    le singe est dans l'arbre

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 240.

    I think our education system is crap.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 239.

    I've actually found that through languages I've actually gained a deeper understanding of English. For example, you can say the same thing three different ways in English with slightly different connotations for each, but only the one way in German. I never knew before now how incredibly intricate English can be as a language until I tried to translate it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 238.

    To be really effective, it will require an enormous amount of resources, not least native speakers of the languages in question, whatever they may be. It will not be cheap. I would suggest a close look at the efforts made in other countries - Finland for one, where the teaching of English is often very good. It must start early, it must be communicative and a 100% success rate must not be expected

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 237.

    All very well & good, back in the real world, many schools have had a large influx of immigrant children, where English is not their first language. In school a lot of time is taken up, teaching English to often multiple different nationalities, which slows ALL learning down.

    Children, at these many schools, where English is the only language at home, are most disadvantaged by this.

    RESOURCES!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 236.

    I know of plenty of children that have parents from different countries that speak , read and write both sets of languages. It is 100% common sense that any child will naturally learn what ever language/s it is taught. I have never understood the point in waiting until a child is well and trully setteled in their native tongue and then 'try' to teach them another launguage.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 235.

    Good idea,I would loved to have learnt a language, but in those days only pupils in the A/ B streams were taught. I was in a C but managed by hard work to get higher, but still no languages. The younger you are its meant to be easier but as some are going to uni without even being able to read and write english then pupils/parents themselves need to take responsibilty to go to school to learn

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 234.

    5 is too young. I started German at 13 and reached native standard fluency by the end of a year studying in Germany. I started French at 7 and was bored senseless by the time I reached A level.

    Plus if you ARE going to teach a language, teachers MUST be competent and confident to do so, and it has to be taught properly, i.e., with grammar, not just endless little unconnected phrases.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 233.

    The minister should concentrate on having children learn English first. Many school leavers cannot string two coherent sentences together , cannot spell correctly and cannot write properly.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 232.

    we have has a nation been pooly led since the end of the war,promoting steam instead of electric and diesel the lack of leadership in our great industry's and the 11+ experiment.all this then thatcher arrives with the greed is good period, now we have a tory speaking out against what as been so bl**dy obvious for the last sixty years,one is not filled with confidence,his one??

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 231.

    Whilst research evidence suggests that bilingualism in young children enhances neural pathway development and longer-term academic outcomes, equally secure evidence shows that learning two languages often delays children's development in both before benefits are realised. I fear that such delays are likely to be interpreted erroneously by Mr. Gove as 'underachievement'.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 230.

    Please do not teach French or German.My grandchildren, 5 and 6 in the US learn Spanish and Chinese.The first is essential for people living in the US and the second is a must for the future. I agree that a foreign language is the easiest to learn when young but it must be followed up with interaction in that language. The teacher should be that foreign national and refrain from speaking English.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 229.

    Gove is right. Gordon Brown banged on about 'globalisation' and how important it is for the UK to be a part of that, yet Labour made learning a foreign language optional!

    (Its a harder subject than media studies).

    I am constantly amazed by the breadth of education and language abilities of my international friends and family. They often show up my basic education and I went to a good school.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 228.

    Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone wants to practice their English in a foreign country. My experience is that most are rather pleased when an Englishman (myself) takes the trouble to learn a little more than the rudiments of, in this case, Finnish and Swedish. Children here are taught English, in many cases very well and effectively, but it requires an enormous input of resources.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 227.

    German and French are the roots of English and share many common words eg Pork/Porc (F) House/Haus, Wind/Wind (G). If German kids can learn to speak German before age 5 why can't our kids hear and speak it from age 5?

    It doesn't need huge resources, half an hour a week playing games or singing songs in the foreign language with a native speaker with the occasional assembly in French is enough.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 226.

    Schools used to teach both Latin and Greek what other languages could you possibly need? Interestingly because of the growth of the Chinese domestic market some Chinese youngsters are asking why they should learn English anymore but there are still more people in China learning English than live in the UK so I see no need to learn foreign languages unless you are motivated to do so.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 225.

    Our daughter, now 15, has been learning languages from an early age outside of school as both of us enjoy languages, and now speaks Greek as well as French - she's doing GCSE French and a 'Language Leader' qualification, and busy exploring Russian off her own bat. It's good for schools to teach from an early age, but not all teachers especially in primary are confident in their own skills to do so

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 224.

    It's pathetic. Most schools teach foreign language as an academic subject; grammar, vocabulary rather than learning to speak and write as you go. At primary school you could teach it the same way the kids leaned english. But you would need native speakers or very good speakers and avoid using english except in emergency! You don't learn a foreign language by speaking english.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 223.

    Actually most schools might want to start with English

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 222.

    Great idea. But teaching kids from the age of 5 a foreign language will require a lot of money. You can't just magic Spanish teachers etc out of the air. And unless this is going to be anything than a box ticking exercise, kids need to do 3-4 hours a week of foreign language lessons, just as Norwegian kids do to learn English. If the Tories are willing to put the money in, then that's great.

 

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