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?