Monday, June 25, 2007

Children to try out six languages before they start secondary school

This is really fantastic. Children have such un-tapped capacities to learn language. Wish this could be tested somewhere in the U.S. as well. -Angela

Children to try out six languages before they start secondary school
By Richard Garner, Education Editor/ The Independent
Published: 23 June 2007

Primary school children are learning six different languages from the
age of nine under a pioneering new plan.

The idea is to give them a taste of all six so they can then decide
for themselves which language to opt for when they transfer to
secondary school.

The scheme is being piloted in three local education authorities -
Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Derbyshire - and is being backed
by secondary school headteachers. The children study French, German,
Spanish, Japanese, Punjabi and Latin for a term each before they leave
primary school. The project is being evaluated by the University of
Manchester with a view to promoting it nationally if it is successful.
The report will be published by the end of the year.

Peter Downes, a former president of the secondary school headteachers'
union and a languages teacher himself, who is managing the project
with cash backing from the Esme Fairbank Foundation, said: "It is
educationally better for the children. We're living in a modern world
- where children all learning French and going into France for a day
is no longer relevant. We will need a much wider language base in

Ministers are insisting that every child should have the right to
learn a foreign language from the age of seven by the end of the
decade. Some primary schools have introduced the subject while others
have not - leaving secondary schools facing an enormous ability range
when the children arrive at 11.

"It is really difficult putting them all in the same class," said Mr
Downes. "If you start from scratch for the beginners those who have
been learning for years will get bored ... This way they will all have
been taught to the same level by the time they transfer." The ideal,
he said, is for clusters of primary schools feeding the same secondary
school to get together to teach the project.

One school which has seized on the initiative is the 320-pupil Cavalry
primary school in March, Cambridgeshire - in the largely white
Fenlands. "We didn't have any language teacher here at all," said
headteacher Val Spriggs.

"The children really have taken to this. Our children in this area
have very little experience of other cultures. It has been a lovely
way of introducing them to different ways of doing things."

Catherine White, the teacher in charge of delivering the project,
admits to having had a sketchy knowledge of languages - especially
Japanese - herself when she started the scheme.

"You don't have to be a linguist to teach it," she said. "After all, I
gave up on art when I was 14 or 15 - but I still have to teach it."

The proof of the pudding lies with the pupils. Alex Saunders, 11, who
has taken to signing his name "Alexus" after learning Latin, said: "I
like it."

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