You are on page 1of 7

BENEFITS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR ALL LEARNERS

Guadalupe Rodrguez-Pina Daz-Calvo

BENEFITS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR ALL LEARNERS 2

All children are born with potential and we cannot be sure of the learning limits of any child
(Robert Fisher, 2001:1).

Languages for All in Secondary School


Early initiatives to the development of modern language teaching in Europe began to thrive, according to the Council of Europe, in the late 1950s. Ever since then, a series of programmes had been developed, in which several approaches and strategies were gradually undertaken throughout the different stages. In 1988, the then European Communitys Ministers of Education agreed to make language learning the key to education for European citizenship (McColl 2000, Wilson D.R.nd). Nevertheless, for much of the twentieth century, foreign language learning in Britain had been reserved, mostly, to academic elite.

The inclusion of all children to language learning, regardless of their social background, age, gender or abilities, took shape more than twenty years ago to form the current Languages for All:Languages for Life strategy1. British government introduced a National Curriculum requiring all 11- to 14-year-olds, including those with learning difficulties, to follow a MFL course (Whitehead 1990). Having set this requirement, achieving success in secondary should imply having high quality teaching and learning at Key Stage 3 and furthermore, for those within the 14-19 phase, a flexible curriculum and range of routes to support success.

On the other hand, British Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) curricula had already grown more inclusive (Wilson n.d.). And the focus had shifted from

Languages for All: Languages for Life. A Strategy for England was first published by the Department for Education and Skills in 2002.

Guadalupe Rodrguez-Pina Daz-Calvo

BENEFITS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR ALL LEARNERS 3

grammar and translation skills to the use of language as a vehicle of communication. Taking on consideration inclusion in MFL curricula, to provide accessible and relevant language for all learners, might seem to be an ambitious educational objective, much of a challenge for many of its stakeholders: teachers, families, community or decision makers and in particular, for pupils.

Can Second Language Learning benefit pupils who are already struggling to master their first?
Language development is fundamental to social, emotional and behavioural development around 5070 per cent of pupils identified as having behavioural, emotional and social difficulties (BESD) have speech, language or

communication impairments (Speech, language and communication needs, TDA). It is, therefore, understandable the reason behind many parents and professionals believes, about second language acquisition interfering with the first language, and the decision to excuse their children from modern language classes.

Although in the case of people with hearing loss or distortion, learning a second language could present obvious difficulties, throughout my experience with learning disabilities I had come across some cases in which learners that showed a real interest, learnt a foreign language. Despite the fact that certain specific skills would not, logically, apply to them (e.g. literacy for those with vision impairment or dyslexia or listening for those with hearing problems, among others). The same conviction is reflected in many schools mission statement across the UK, where Languages for All, Languages for Life strategy is fully operating (in spite of some cases that are exempted to attend to MFL classes due to severe problems or to parents decision) and MFL is compulsory from year 11 to 16. A head teacher once told me, Learning another language improves the use of your own language. Indeed, some children with dyslexia find Chinese and

Guadalupe Rodrguez-Pina Daz-Calvo

BENEFITS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR ALL LEARNERS 4

Spanish languages easier than English language, and this is because of its characters, the former, and for being a phonetic language, the current. In their Languages Departments, members are watchful and aware of any specific learning difficulties or sensory impairment which might make themselves more apparent in the language classroom, e.g. hearing difficulties, or acute problems with copying words correctly, and they consult with the students and the SEN Coordinator. As far as I had observed, they cooperate in any arrangements needed, in order to make the students to attain the highest possible standard. One of the teachers commented to me some cases in which, students with severe hearing or vision difficulties had achieved success, as they were really motivated and worked very hard all along. She also pointed at motivation as being one of the main factors when it comes to learn a modern language rather than a specific difficulty.

A large number of research support successful experiences of modern language learning by learners with special educational needs and all converge on a common conclusion: learning a second language is beneficial for everyone in many areas of their development and may make very significant contributions to the lives of those learners. In 2012, Wilson D.R. has submitted an extensive and complete bibliography on modern foreign languages and special educational needs.

Benefits of MFL for all learners


Hilary McColl (2000) would draw a distinction between predictable and unpredictable benefits. Predictable benefits are classified into five different categories: Language, conceptual and speech development, social

development and cultural awareness. The author (2000:5) states that according to almost all teachers who have worked with learners in special schools and units, foreign language learning, far from interfering with language development as was once thought, stimulates its development, and gains can be detected right across the curriculum . In addition to those gains, individual students might benefit unpredictably and would be immeasurably poorer if they were denied the opportunity to Guadalupe Rodrguez-Pina Daz-Calvo

BENEFITS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR ALL LEARNERS 5

participate. Perhaps, McColl (2000:6) notes, it is this above all which justifies their inclusion: if we cannot predict what advantages certain children might obtain from exposure to foreign language learning, neither can we predict what advantages they might lose if we deny them the chance even to try.

In conclusion, one firmly believes that, by learning a modern foreign language pupils with special educational needs would feel equal (in the first place because they will attend to lessons with their peers and secondly because they will make mistakes as everyone else in the classroom will as well, which in one way or another could contribute to built their confidence and self-esteem), open their minds and broadens their horizons, besides the endless list of benefits mentioned above.

Guadalupe Rodrguez-Pina Daz-Calvo

BENEFITS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR ALL LEARNERS 6

References - Central government (2005). Directgov: all services in one. Parents.Schools


learning development. Special Educatonial Needs. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Schoolslearninganddevelopment/SpecialEd ucationalNeeds/DG_4008600 - Council of Europe (2012). Democracy. Education and Languages, Language Policy. Language Policy Division: A brief hystory. http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/linguistic/historique_en.asp - Dallam School Language Department Staff Handbook (2012); version 1. - Department for Education and Skills (2002). Creating opportunity, releasing potential, achieving excellence. Languages for All: Languages for Life. A Strategy for England. https://www.dfes.gov.uk/eydcp - McColl, H. (2000). Modern languages for all. London: David Fulton. -Fisher, R. (2005). Teaching children to learn. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes ltd. -Teaching & Development Agency (n.d.). Development and diversity Self-study task 10. Speech, language and communication needs. Communication and interaction. https://mylearning.cumbria.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-1231350-dt-content-rid543383_1/courses/p_12872591/E9-SST10.pdf -Wilson, D.R. (2012). A bibliography of modern foreign languages and special educational needs. Newcastle upon Tyne. http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com

- Wilson, D.R. (n.d.). Building bridges to inclusive foreign language education through appropriately applied technologies. http://www.languageswithoutlimits.co.uk/

Cover image: Colin Wheeler.

Guadalupe Rodrguez-Pina Daz-Calvo

BENEFITS OF MODERN FOREIGN LANGUAGES FOR ALL LEARNERS 7

Guadalupe Rodrguez-Pina Daz-Calvo