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Teaching secondary modern foreign languages
Teaching secondary modern foreign languages

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1.1 Becoming a teacher of MFL

You are already an accomplished linguist with a passion for the language or languages you have chosen to teach. Your knowledge base very likely includes the literature, way of life, people and cultural aspects of this language. This knowledge base will be one of your greatest assets as a teacher. As a beginner teacher you will need to think about how to communicate this enthusiasm for languages and how you will inspire students to follow your lead.

It will also be important to begin to develop a vision of the kind of teacher that you wish to become, making explicit your beliefs and attitudes as a teacher and, more specifically, as a teacher of languages. You will also need to think about how you will put those beliefs and attitudes into practice. This is not always easy given the demands of the school curriculum and the need to follow statutory requirements.

Some of the students you teach may not be as enthusiastic about learning a language as you. Indeed, MFL is one of the least popular subjects on the British curriculum – this can be seen in Table 1, which shows a continual decline in the number of students taking a modern language GCSE exam at the age of 16 since the beginning of the millennium.

Table 1 Percentage of students in year 11 (age 16) entered for a language GCSE

What are some of the reasons for this? If you work in a school, what is the view of students with regard to learning a modern foreign language?

Activity 1 will help you explore how to respond to student perceptions of the importance of knowing a second language and how to justify the inclusion of MFL on the curriculum.

Activity 1

Timing: Allow about 90 minutes

Part 1

Ask some students you know what they think it means to learn a language and how important they think it is to learn about MFL in school. How did the views about MFL differ between students aged 11–14, 14–16 and 16-18? What reasons did they give for choosing to study a language to exam level?

Part 2

Now watch the video below, noting some possible reasons for learning a modern foreign language. How could you use these in response to some of the students’ views given in Part 1?

Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

There are a variety of educational, social and commercial reasons for learning a language. You will now consider some of these further and how to justify the compulsory study of a language on the secondary school curriculum.