Since British kids already speak English as a mother tongue, do thery need to learn foreign languages? Of course, this is a provocative question. Only a fool would say that learning foreign languages would not be beneficial for British kids.
If British kids don't learn foreign languages, will this damage their general educational development. if so, how? If they do need to learn a foreign language, which language should that be, and why?
I hope that, in answering this question, (which is not your immediate concern), you will refect on the reasons why we think it is a good idea for our students to learn English.
Of course, there are hundreds of reasons, but I'd be interested to hear your comments. Which reasons have priority in your opinion?
Interesting question. I've had two foreign trips this year. One to the united Arab Emirates and one to Israel. In both cases I was keen to learn some basic phrases of Arabic and Hebrew respectively. But despite these intentions I didn't need to know a thing. English appeared to be ubiquitous. So practically speaking it seems that there isn't a great deal of need.
Though in my opinion, knowing another language is a matter of respect to some extent. Just to be aware that there's another world out there.
So one way in which their educational development might be damaged is in their world view. Doubtless there is also a value in using the brain in a different ways. I remember being told that Latin was an important language (though no one speaks it). I now see that it was the only subject in which I learnt about grammar - though I remember nothing of it. There is also a certain logic to the way language fits together which could be applicable in other subjects areas of life I imagine.
As to which language and why: for sheer quantity of speakers and potential discoursees (?), you would imagine Chinese or Spanish would be important. Though every language has it's only satisfaction and beauty I expect so diversity might be great thing. Especially if we think of language and its insights into mentality, etc.
A slightly flippant reply, but somone said to me recently that saying the British didn't need to learn languages because everyone spoke English was like saying no-one needed to learn any maths because we all have calculators..
The response is both "yes and no'. No, because the Brits used to be powerful enough to assume one of the world powers. This is how they spread their culture and language throughout the world. English turned into an international language that many people in the world felt necessary to learn. However, today, there are other factors that highlight the importance of learning English (political, economic, technological, etc.) That English is now widely used all over the world as a lingua franca does exclude the need for the Brits to learn foreign languages. On the other hand, the answer is positive. It is traditionally believed that language learning improves one's mind and cognition (mental processes). In the technological era and communication, mobility takes place easily and fast. The Brits migrate to other countries of the world. To feel empathy with other nationals, they would need to learn other languages as well.
Yes, I think the point about empathy is a very important one. Even if a lot of people do speak English and it can be used as a lingua franca, Brits should still learn other languages as a way of gaining a greater understanding of other cultures and a way of reaching out. (Plus learning a language is definitely good for your brain- a recent study showed bilinguals had fewer instances of alzheimers disease)
Just thought it'd be interested to add a comment on this topic from the Pearson Facebook page:
No, learning too many foreign languages is a waste of time. Speaking from experience.
.. and money.
I suppose practically speaking she has a point.
Whilst living in Libya, I took over the house of a French couple who were returning to France. They sold me their capets and furniture at a very good price, on condition that I took over their dog. I was faced with the management of a French speaking dog. Since my working day was spent giving English lessons, I didn't want to return home and give further lessons to the dog. So I spoke to the dog in my limited, schoolboy French. This was very successful. The dog seemed to understand even when I made mistakes, and the dog never gave me a strange look when I used a feminine article in front of a masculine noun.
Admittedly, our language interaction was fairly limited, but I got regular opportunities to use and re-use several French phrases.
Later, I progressed from talking to the dog to interacting with two-legged people. All thanks to those French lessons in Secondary school!