Scottish Languages Review Issue 24

Issue 24 - 23/01/2012

Please check out our Events section, which serves as a summary reminder of upcoming seminars and conferences. You’ll also find references to some past events – to allow you to check back and contact the organisers about any follow-up publication. As usual, there are also Abstracts from a selection of recent journal publications. We bring them together here for your convenience as starting points for further research. If you are unable to access the full article but would be interested in finding out more, please let us know.

We start this edition with a brief summary by Sharon Czudak of the findings from the UK-wide survey of FE colleges conducted by CILT, the National Centre for Languages in early 2011. The FE perspective is often neglected so this is a very welcome contribution – although it makes for some quite depressing reading. On a more positive note we are delighted to have once again a submission by a former Scottish Languages Baccalaureate candidate. Kirsty McDermott used her language skills in German and Spanish (and greatly improved her confidence in speaking) through her investigation into nursery legislation in Germany and Spain. Fiona Lyon reports on her very useful doctoral study which has culminated in the development of a diagnostic tool for learners in Gaelic-medium schools, whilst a former Foreign Language Assistant, Kirsten Liebke gives a very vivid account of her successful (and much publicised) efforts to get some of her pupils to produce a real newspaper supplement on Germany. Rachel Tsai focuses on the difficulties experienced by Anglophone students of Mandarin Chinese, specifically the four tones.  Finally, there is an interesting reflective commentary by Hilary McColl on the opportunities being offered by the ‘1+2’ languages initiative recently announced by the government.

Call for papers

Do you want to respond to a submission in this or a previous edition? Have you got something new to say about language learning/ teaching or language policy, in Scotland or in other parts of the world? Perhaps you would like to showcase an action research project and bring it to a wider audience? We accept submissions at any time but if you want your paper to be considered for the next edition, the submission deadline is 31 May 2012.  The SLR is read by linguists as well as educational stakeholders across the country and beyond, so your article can really make an impact! Hannah Doughty, Editor.

A glance at languages in Further Education in the UK between 2006 and 2011

by Sharon Czudak, CILT, the National Centre for Languages

CILT, the National Centre for Languages has just carried out its second survey into the status of languages in Further Education in 2011.  A previous survey was carried out in 2006 and showed a stark decline in the opportunities for 16-19 year olds to study languages in Further Education, with the same disappointing picture emerging from all four nation states of the UK.  The main aim of the 2006 survey was to discover what opportunities there were for non-specialist language –learners, i.e.  those for whom languages was not their main area of study, to learn a language alongside their vocational course post 16.  It was felt important at that time to assess the national picture as there was increasing anecdotal evidence showing that funding changes were leading to cuts in provision and staffing,  meaning that languages were disappearing from the FE curriculum.  The results of the survey reinforced this anecdotal evidence and showed that fewer than half of the FE colleges surveyed across the UK offered opportunities to learn languages in or alongside vocational courses.  It also showed that one in four colleges that did offer languages had reduced its provision in recent years and that nearly half expected further decreases in learner numbers.  It also showed that where such provision did exist, numbers were very small and whereas previously languages had been offered as part of a wide range of vocational courses, the offer had largely become reduced to Spanish on Travel and Tourism courses. 

View full article - A glance at languages in Further Education in the UK between 2006 and 2011

Conducting the Interdisciplinary Project for the Scottish Baccalaureate in Languages: A Case Study

by Kirsty McDermott, Form 6, Dollar Academy

This article provides an insight into the experiences and benefits gained as a result of studying foreign languages and being able to spend time abroad.  As part of Interdisciplinary Project of the Scottish Baccalaureate for Languages I spent time in both Germany and Spain.  There I carried out work experience in a nursery in order to further my language skills but also to compare the different rules and regulations which each country follows in respect to childcare.  I outline the challenges which are needed to be overcome in order to achieve the Scottish Baccalaureate for Languages award, and how they have been of advantage to me both in an educational context and in everyday life.  The actual project report is attached as appendix.

Keywords: Scottish Baccalaureate; German; Spanish; work-experience; childcare; working abroad

View full article - Conducting the Interdisciplinary Project for the Scottish Baccalaureate

Early Intervention in Gaelic-medium Education

by Fiona M. Lyon, Our Lady of the Missions Primary

This article reports on research within 48 Gaelic-medium classrooms.  A pilot study comprised a further two schools.  The investigation involved a review of assessment tools in English.  Existing literature points to poor readers differing from normal readers with respect to phonological processing skills in English.  The possibility of dyslexia for children receiving Gaelic-medium education is just as relevant as it is for children in English-speaking schools, but there are few assessment tools available to Gaelic-medium primary teachers.  In order to ascertain which pupils require specific intervention, a programme of early assessment needs to be put in place.  The author designed a tool in Gaelic and 368 pupils were tested by their teachers in the main study.  Results show that the tool will enable a Gaelic-medium teacher to recognise when and with what particular aspect a child is having difficulty.  At an early stage in their education there is still time to intervene.

Keywords: Early intervention; Gaelic-medium education; assessment; phonological awareness

View full article - Early Intervention in Gaelic-medium Education

Project-based learning in an intercultural context

by Kirsten Liebke, University of Göttingen (formerly German Language Assistant in Orkney)

Pupils from Kirkwall Grammar School (KGS) and Stromness Academy (SA) created a supplement for the Orkney Island’s newspaper The Orcadian, which invited readers to an armchair tour of Germany. The pull-out supplement, entitled Deutschland Today and published on 9 June 2011,  gives insights into German politics, art, literature, film, sports as well as other aspects of German culture such as food, humour and music. The approach adopted was pluralistic not only in terms of participants, but also in terms of aspects that were dealt with throughout the project. It was a key issue to sensitise pupils to the intercultural dimension of foreign language learning (German) while getting insights into journalism. The present article reviews and evaluates this newspaper project.

Keywords: German as a foreign language, newspaper project, intercultural learning, global citizen, authentic learning situations

View full article - Project-based learning in an intercultural context

Teaching and learning the tones of Mandarin Chinese

by Rachel Tsai, St George’s School for Girls

This article explores issues around the learning of the four tones in Mandarin Chinese, particularly by native speakers of English.  It introduces the reader to the nature of the tones and outlines current teaching practice in common use. It then explores difficulties encountered at the early learning stages.  It is shown that native speakers of non-tonal languages need to develop and exercise new areas of the brain through repeated practising of tones, and that musical ability makes it easier to learn the tones.

Keywords: Mandarin Chinese; tones; pinyin

View full article - Teaching and learning the tones of Mandarin Chinese

1 + 2 = Free…?

by Hilary McColl, Independent Consultant

The author suggests that the recently proposed 1+2 strategy for language learning provides an opportunity now to move forward with the long-proposed agenda to strengthen provision for the wide range of 'home' languages used in Scotland. Such a strategy, if resourced and supported, would create a continuum of linguistic skills that reflects the expanding social awareness and communication needs of the growing child. Such a move is in line with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, and the draft Strategy for Scotland's Languages. It would also provide educational support for national social priorities and would confirm the contribution that Modern Languages can make to everyday life in this country.

Keywords: Scotland, language policy, Curriculum for Excellence

View full article - 1 + 2 = Free…?


University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages