What does the future hold for foreign languages in UK secondary schools?

“But Miss I don’t get it”.

“What’s the point in learning another language when everyone speaks English?”

“I’m just not good at languages.”

“What’s she saying?”

“I can barely speak English let alone another language.”

“Can’t you just speak in English, Miss?”

Sound familiar? It does to me. I have lost count of the amount of times that these phrases have echoed around the walls of an MFL classroom or corridor.

So what exactly is making our students feel this way towards languages? Well the truth is there is no easy answer.

In my opinion the most obvious reason is that many students struggle to relate to languages as they believe that they aren’t beneficial. Unlike Maths, English and Science, which students are constantly told are imperative and will be used throughout their adult life, languages are not seen in the same light. Native English speakers are in a very fortunate position with English being so widely spoken and means that they are able to visit many places in the world without actually needing another language to get by. This leaves many adopting the attitude that there isn’t any point in learning another language. As a language lover and teacher this makes me very sad as some of them will never realise just what they are missing out on.

Another issue which is sure to affect student’s attitudes is the amount of time that is dedicated to languages in schools. Schools are incredibly lucky if they have more than 1 hour a week dedicated to languages at KS3 and 2 hours a week at KS4 . With so little time it’s no wonder students are scared to commit.

Of course there are many factors involved  both on a smaller scale and school wide. Lack of funding, shortage of teachers (particularly for languages), bigger class sizes and packed timetables means that schools are struggling.

With such a complex situation what exactly can we do to keep students interest in languages?

There are plenty more fish in the sea!

You might be looking at the title wondering what on earth you are getting yourself into in today’s blog. However do not fear, I am not going to be giving you dating advice, but instead am going to be discussing an important element of language…idioms! 

So what exactly is an idiom? Well an idiom is a word or a phrase which means something different from its literal meaning, an example in English being ‘break a leg’. Rather than actually wanting someone to break a leg we use this expression to wish someone luck. As idioms cannot be directly translated they are a difficult part of learning a language but are essential if you want to truly feel like a native.

Below are 5 of my favourite Spanish idioms:

1. Tomar el pelo

Literally ‘to take the hair’. Yep, you read that right. Although our equivalent in English doesn’t make much more sense: ‘to pull someone’s leg’. This idiom means when you tell someone something that isn’t true to play a joke on them.

2. Ponerse morado

‘To get purple?’. WHAT IS GOING ON? Well this lovely idiom translates to ‘to eat like a pig’ in English which of course means to eat a lot!

3. Tirar la casa por la ventana

‘To throw the house through the window?’ What do these Spaniards get up to on the weekends..? Well, whilst they are throwing houses through their windows in Spain, here in the UK we are ‘sparing no expense’. This handy idiom means to spend as much money as possible to make something good, without considering the cost.

4. Ser pan comido

‘To be bread eaten?’ What are these crazy Spanish people talking about you might ask? Well in English we would say something equally as strange- ‘it’s a piece of cake!’. If you’re not familiar with this idiom it means something is really easy!

5. Estar más sana que una pera 

‘To be healthier than a pear’. This idiom is slightly more self explanatory than the previous ones- describing someone who is in very good health. The English equivalent (which you may have heard of) is ‘as fit as a fiddle’.

So next time you have a conversation with someone in Spanish see if you can slip in one of these to impress them!

Love will prevail

Before writing a blog post today I feel that I have to acknowledge the terrible events that took place in Catalonia yesterday and this morning. Just two days ago I wrote a post about embracing local culture when visiting other countries and mentioned my own visit to Barcelona earlier this year. Spain is a country which is very close to my heart and it deeply saddens me to see that there has been another attack on innocent people resulting in loss of life.

My thoughts go out to everyone involved.

Lisanne x