Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Scrap Greek and Latin, Teach Arabic and Urdu!

Learning a foreign language in the UK is to become compulsory from age 7. Fabulous news!

In theory.

In practice, who is going to teach them? A primary school teacher whose only claim to foreign language knowledge is French O-levels 20 years ago and a one-week excursion to Tenerife or Fuerte Ventura every now and then?

Now suppose the government can and will recruit native/fluent-speaking teachers, encourages immersion and allocates resources and time for learning languages. These are: Mandarin, French, German, Spanish, Greek and Latin.

Now, I can see the case for French and German, languages of neighbouring countries, quite common and useful for understanding English.

Mandarin and Spanish are increasingly important, due to the economic emergence of China and South America.

But Latin? Greek? One is a dead language and, no offence to Greek-speakers, the other is only spoken by 13 million people worldwide and is sadly in no risk of becoming important on the economic scene any time soon.

What about Arabic, one of the most spoken languages in the world?

And what about Urdu-Hindi? After all, minority language literacy has proven benefits on academic achievement.

I know the benefits of multilingualism, and I think I know how to go about it in practice. I am not sure the British government does...