(El tema d’ahir, però ara en anglès) If we look at the equivalent of Eurovision for foreign-language learning, there at the bottom in a sorry-looking muddle, we’d find the English themselves with null points. Many English feel they already speak a “universal language” and as such the whole business of foreign-language teaching/learning is foreign to them, to coin a pun.
Just above the English, we’d probably find the Catalans and Spanish. It turns out that their level of English is actually lower than that of most other European countries. Why? How do they manage to go through 10-15 years of schooling with 2-3 hours per week of English, and still come out of it with a very weak level – many not being up to B1 rating, on the EU standard classification? To cut a long story short, I have been a private English teacher for 20 years, as well as knowing many teachers, pupils, and parents involved in the state schooling system and so should have some answers. Yesterday’s post was basically this – my top seven things that need sorting, and tout suite!
1. School s start teaching English at the age of 5, and many at 3. And go on till 16 or 18. Obviously (maybe), the earlier you start, the better. But with 25 kids in a class, I’m not sure they can make much progress, especially on the speaking side of things. Much more important than the 4000000 hours, is the class size. Experience shows me that you need a maximum of 10 in a class to get anywhere (or anywhere worth going).
2. Real and ambitious objectives need setting. There seems to be a serious lack of coordination between primary/junior teaching and secondary schools. At 11 the last thing kids want is to start again going back to basics, but bound on using the English they’ve learnt. With the right methods, it shouldn’t be difficult to set an aim – and put the resources in to achieve it – of 16-year-olds leaving school with B1 level by 2014, and by 2016 have 18-year-olds at B2 level. (confused? Check this out) But with REAL and strict exams with 50% of the assessment being orally (as the actress said to the bishop – sorry, couldn’t resist that one ...).
3. I’m told that many Primary/Junior teachers do 90% of their lesson in English, but Secondary school teachers say they can’t – the teenagers wouldn’t follow them. So what’s going on? I think, too many kids manage to “hide” in a class of 25 and manage to get through years of schooling by winging it and never really taking anything in.
4. Teachers have to be not just good, but very good! I’m sure many are – but many have a weak level of English or just can’t be bothered. The latter should resign or get booted out (something virtually impossible, getting rid of a job-for-life public servant over here). The former should be made to spend the month of July on subsidized English courses for themselves, with the aim of all teachers being at C1 level.
5. Re-orientate some teaching methods. Much more listening and speaking practice, but with real work behind it. And forget all those hopeless text books where you just have to fill in the gaps. Get some work done – something copied, something learned! Stop giving out all those lists of vocabulary and verbs and get the kids to make their own lists with the words they are actually using and learning. Oral and listening exams too.
6. Out of school – if films and cartoons are dubbed into Catalan, rather than being broadcast in their original language (with subtitles), it’s a wasted opportunity –apparently many EU countries do not dub. Music, books, internet, films, there’s a whole world out there to practice your English with.
7. The government has proposed teaching other subjects, such as maths or PE, in English. A good idea, but we’re back to square one – with 25 in the class, you’re getting nowhere.
Anyway, that’s all I have time for today – maybe another day I’ll continue with this theme, though blogging about work isn’t my cup of tea.
What would this blog be without a song? The Carpenters with Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft ....