So many questions………
Question – Does being a global citizen necessarily mean children should be introduced to as many languages as possible focusing on their linguistic abilities?
Question – Is learning one or two languages – likely to be French and/or Spanish – throughout prep school years beneficial or, in a global context, even relevant any more?
Question – If children are to learn one or two languages as above, what should the focus be on: Listening, Writing, Speaking or Reading? Or should there be an equal emphasis on each skill? Ultimately, what is the best outcome for the children to get the most out of their language learning?
Question – How young can children start to learn a new language? The science says children after the age of seven can lose their natural ability to reproduce new sounds which makes language learning more difficult.
Question – Should lower academic ability children, with weaknesses in English and Maths for example, need to learn a new language? Instead of learning a different language for 2 or 3 hours a week, would they be better off learning and mastering core skills in English and Maths?
Question – How can language teaching link to teaching a wider global perspective through the humanities subjects – history, geography and religious studies – which naturally lend themselves to studying language and cultural differences? Can we link these different subjects together so children can see them in a wider context as opposed to separate subjects existing in glorious subject isolation?
Question – Why do our Spanish and French children who come to Knighton House for a year/term have the ability to speak, understand and write very good English, particularly their spoken English, when they arrive? What’s happening in their schools that doesn’t happen in England?
Question – If Arabic and Mandarin are taught in your school, known to be two of the hardest languages to learn, what are they missing out on?
Question – Having studied a language at prep school for possibly eight years (if they start in Y1) – more than likely to be French – does the proportion of leavers joining their senior school giving up French and taking up a new language, tell us anything useful or is it just because they want to try something new?
Question – Where do we see learning language/s in the curriculum priority list? Is it more, less or of equal importance to other subjects? Does it have too much/too little/enough curriculum time? Are languages seen as a priority by senior leaders?
Question – Is it educationally more beneficial to provide exposure to several different languages in their prep school careers, or concentrate on mastering one, may be two?
Questions, questions, questions……..
Like most things in education, there are many different answers.
— Written by Mr Robin Gainher, Headmaster —