Providing for Learning
There is currently a renewed interest in language learning. As always, political and economic concerns play a major role in the nation's perception of the value of learning a second language (Met and Galloway, 1992). Furthermore, there is now a growing awareness of the role that multilingual individuals can play in an increasingly diverse society, and there is also a greater understanding of the academic and cognitive benefits that may accrue from learning other languages (Macro, 1998). Recent years have seen major policy changes in the field of language learning in secondary schools in England. In 2002 The Department of Education and Skills (DfES) published the ‘Languages Strategy’ which set out the government's vision for languages, with three main objectives: * to improve the teaching and learning of languages in schools. * to introduce a recognition system (known as ‘The Languages Ladder’). * to increase the number of people studying languages beyond school. In order to improve teaching and learning in Key Stage 3 (KS3) education, the Framework for teaching Modern Foreign Languages (MFL): Years 7, 8 and 9 was introduced in 2003 (DfES, 2003). The KS3 Framework for languages contains a structured and progressive set of teaching objectives for modern foreign languages, together with guidance on how to use them. To address the challenges of secondary language learning, the use of the KS3 framework in conjunction with the National curriculum for MFL (Qualification Curriculum Authority 2007) were implemented to support teaching and learning. (King, 2011) The inclusion of modern foreign languages within the school curriculum carries with it a number of potential benefits, which will be explored within this essay alongside a personal view of teaching MFL within the current national strategies. Knowing a second language opens up new career opportunities and people with two or more languages are definitely better placed in the job market than people who can only speak one language. Acquiring language skills has been attributed to contributing to international success in numerous ways, for example, in the enhanced availability of market information, improved negotiation skills, and an improved understanding of trade partners’ business culture. (Clarke, 1999) Language competence seems to be regarded as important by business but this is not reflected in current national training and skills priorities or in most vocational course offers. (Wolf, 2011) In addition, Knowles et al. (2006) in an empirical project using a mixed qualitative and quantitative design looked at the languages skills of successful decision makers in internationalised Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs). The authors found that decision-makers with language skills were able to progress further in international trade markets than decision makers who had no languages skills. In contrast, Enderwick and Akoorie (1994) argue that foreign language skills are unnecessary for international decision-makers as English is regarded and accepted as the business ‘lingua franca’ throughout the world. Conversely, our future generations are going to be part of a very fast paced and global society; therefore, it is of paramount importance that the teaching and learning of languages other than English remain included within the national curriculum to also enhance intercultural understanding. “Intercultural understanding involves being open to, interested in, curious about and empathetic towards people from other cultures, and using this heightened awareness of otherness to engage and interact with others and, potentially, to act together for common purposes. Interculturality, finally, involves evaluating one’s own everyday patterns of perception, thought, feeling and behaviour in order to develop greater self-knowledge and self-understanding.” (Byram, 2009, p.6) The knowledge of a foreign language enables students to fully...
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