In 2006, the NFER was commissioned by the DCSF to conduct a three-year longitudinal study of language learning at Key Stage 2 (KS2) to assess the nature and extent of language learning provision at KS2 in schools in England, and progress towards implementation of the non-statutory target set in the National Languages Strategy Languages for All: Languages for Life. A Strategy for England (DfES, 2002) that all children should have an entitlement to language learning in class time in KS2 by 2010.

The report has recently been published, and some of the findings can be seen below:

Schools were asked about the range of languages they offered in class time in KS2. The languages on offer were very similar in all three years of the project; French was the most commonly offered language, available in around nine out of ten schools offering a language in class time at KS2. Spanish was also popular, offered by a quarter of schools teaching languages, while German was offered by 10 per cent of schools teaching languages A much smaller proportion of schools offered Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Urdu. In 2008, slightly fewer schools said that they offered languages other than those on the list provided, than in previous years. Other languages mentioned by a small number of schools in 2008 included Bengali, Latin, British Sign Language and Polish.


Languages offered at KS2 in primary schools in England


Language

2006%

2007%

2008%

French

91

89

89

Spanish

28

23

25

German

12

9

10

Italian

4

3

3

Chinese

1

1

1

Japanese

1

1

1

Urdu

1

<1

<1

Other Languages

4

3

1

No Response

1

<1

1

       

Number of Schools

3336

2586

2303

 

In 2008, three quarters of primary schools offered a single language within class time.Schools providing one language most commonly offered French (1,525, or 66 per cent),followed by Spanish (179 or eight per cent), German (18, or one per cent), and Italian(seven, or less than one per cent. A further 18 per cent offered two languages - the mostcommon combination was French and Spanish. A minority of schools (six per cent) offered three or more languages.

As shown in the table below, in 2006, almost all responding local authorities were aware of French (99 per cent) and Spanish (98 per cent) being taught at KS2 in schools in their area. German (82 per cent) and Italian (51 per cent) were also taught in many LAs, with Chinese taught in 24 per cent. Moving on two years, almost every local authority responding to the 2008 questionnaire said that they were aware of schools teaching French (99 per cent) or Spanish (96 per cent) at KS2, similar to 2006. However, the proportion of LAs aware of German, Italian, Japanese and Urdu being taught had decreased since 2006. In 2008, German was said to be taught in three quarters of local authorities, Italian in around two fifths (41 per cent) and Chinese in just under a quarter (24 per cent), indicating that while these languages were less commonly offered by schools (as shown above), they were not confined to a few local authorities.

 


Languages offered at KS2 in primary schools in England according to local authorities (LAs)

 

Language

2006%

2008%

French

99

99

Spanish

98

96

German

82

75

Italian

51

41

Chinese

24

24

Japanese

16

9

Urdu

14

7

Other Languages

4

1

     

Number of LAs

108

11

 

The reasons why schools had chosen to offer a particular language were largely similar in 2006 and 2008, the two years of the study in which schools were asked about this. In 2008, teacher availability to deliver the chosen language was the most common reason why a particular language was offered by schools (83 per cent). Availability of resources for teaching that language (75 per cent) and consideration of the languages offered by local secondary and primary schools (72 per cent and 43 per cent respectively) also tended to influence primary schools’ choice of language. Support from the local authority for a particular language only influenced the choice of around a third of primary schools (32 per cent).

Source: Wade, P and Marshall, H with O'Donnell, S 2009. Primary modern foreign languages: longitudinal survey of implementation of national entitlement to language learning at Key Stage 2.

GCSE figures for 2008 suggest that the decline in numbers opting for languages is slowing. While French and German were down again a little (6.8% and 5.4% respectively by comparison with 2007) the percentage decreases are much smaller than in previous years.

Below are tables showing the number of candidates in modern language exams in 2008. For tables showing previous years please see here.

GCSE

Language

2008

French

202,136

German

76,802

Spanish

67,108

Irish

2,422

Welsh

5,436

Welsh L2

10,049

 

 

Other ML

30,794

 

 

Arabic

2,810

Bengali

1,516

CHinese

3,004

Dutch

587

Gujarati

877

Italian

5,377

Japanese

1,344

Modern Greek

498

Modern Hebrew

486

Panjabi

1,178

Persian

1,637

Polish

528

Portuguese

3,052

Russian

1,881

Turkish

1,493

Urdu

5,666

 

 

Total ML

393,699

ALL ENTRIES

5,827,319

%ML of total entries

6.8%

Source: JCQ

A Level

Language

2008

French

14,998

German

6,288

Spanish

7,102

Irish

249

Welsh

364

Welsh L2

574

 

 

Other ML

7,543

 

 

Arabic

519

Bengali

94

Chinese

2,781

Dutch

137

Gujarati

29

Italian

836

Japanese

276

Modern Greek

141

Modern Hebrew

53

Panjabi

207

Persian

183

Polish

375

Portuguese

173

Russian

793

Turkish

301

Urdu

645

 

 

Total ML

35,931

ALL ENTRIES

827,737

%ML of total entries

4.3%

Source: JCQ

 

Below are tables showing the number of candidates in modern language exams in 2005. The data source was from QCA Research and Statistics, however, blen has reconstructed the information for easier access. We hope you find this useful!

GCSE Entries For Modern Languages 2005

Language

Course

Entries

Male

Female

Unknown Gender

Irish

FULL

2507

1091

1416

0

Welsh Language

FULL

5101

2369

2732

0

Welsh (Second language)

FULL

9801

4219

5582

0

Welsh Literature

FULL

4035

1762

2273

0

Arabic

FULL

2194

997

1186

11

Bengali

FULL

1867

857

1010

0

Chinese

FULL

3098

1546

1546

6

Dutch

FULL

383

174

26

3

French

FULL

272,167

122,718

149,431

18

German

FULL

105,259

50,416

54,842

1

Gujarati

FULL

1104

417

687

0

Italian

FULL

5494

2059

3433

2

Japanese

FULL

1120

569

551

0

Modern Greek

FULL

608

608

279

2

Modern Hebrew

FULL

442

149

293

0

Panjabi

FULL

1340

623

717

0

Persian

FULL

442

246

195

1

Polish

FULL

405

204

201

0

Portuguese

FULL

1029

1029

477

1

Russian

FULL

1738

830

908

0

Spanish

FULL

62,489

25,394

37,091

4

Turkish

FULL

636

636

701

0

Urdu

FULL

6373

2699

3637

37

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Irish

SHORT

2507

1091

1416

0

Welsh (Second language)

SHORT

8875

4414

4461

0

French

SHORT

6840

3039

3801

0

German

SHORT

1005

419

586

0

Spanish

SHORT

2789

1201

1588

0

AS Level Entries For Modern Languages 2005

Language

Entries

Male

Female

Unknown Gender

Irish

308

92

216

0

Welsh (Second language)

622

133

489

0

Welsh Literature

389

70

319

0

Arabic

502

245

254

3

Bengali

122

39

83

0

Chinese

2,071

994

1,072

5

Dutch

116

58

58

0

French

19,150

5,983

13,250

7

German

7,613

2,754

4,860

0

Gujarati

53

19

34

0

Italian

1,178

410

768

0

Japanese

296

139

157

0

Modern Greek

164

63

101

0

Modern Hebrew

64

21

43

0

Panjabi

352

120

232

0

Persian

193

100

93

0

Polish

175

72

103

0

Portuguese

209

84

125

0

Russian

467

200

267

0

Spanish

7,849

2,375

5,474

0

Turkish

412

157

255

0

Urdu

878

259

618

1

A Level Entries For Modern Languages 2005

Language

Entries

Male

Female

Unknown Gender

Irish

306

115

191

0

Welsh (Second language)

517

96

421

0

Welsh Literature

402

103

299

0

Arabic

426

206

217

0

Bengali

83

30

53

0

Chinese

2,055

981

1074

0

Dutch

113

48

65

0

French

14,248

4,497

9,751

0

German

5,834

2,187

3,647

0

Gujarati

45

9

36

0

Italian

790

258

532

0

Japanese

251

117

134

0

Modern Greek

154

67

87

0

Modern Hebrew

41

9

32

0

Panjabi

199

77

122

0

Persian

176

85

91

0

Polish

126

56

70

0

Portuguese

172

60

112

0

Russian

651

317

333

1

Spanish

6,173

1,979

4,194

0

Turkish

370

147

222

1

Urdu

762

248

512

2

Source: QCA Research and Stastics, edited by blen

London has always been seen as a truly cosmopolitan city which speaks in different languages. This view was reinforced recently by the Met’s decision to introduce a 999 service with interpreters able to cater for 150 languages. Such a move reveals the full extent of the capital’s linguistic mix. With three out of London’s eight million inhabitants not having English as their mother tongue the need for a multilingual emergency service is long overdue . Not only does it help operators assess a situation more accurately but it enables the service user to express their need spontaneously and freely under duress. The acknowledgment of linguistic communities raises several key issues.

In certain sectors of British society, linguistic diversity has been perceived as a threat to British homogeneity. Back in May with EU expansion it was thought by some that new arrivals would flock to the UK. Not only was the threat perceived as economic but it was also feared that the new arrivals would be unable to speak English thus weakening notions of a homogenous society. This is a myth that must be dispelled. The first step is to acknowledge and accept that learning English and preserving one’s mother tongue are not mutually exclusive, nor mutually detrimental.

When we look at the larger picture the dominance of the English language becomes clear. The globalisation of the English language is firmly established. In virtually every country in the world the first foreign language is always English. From this angle the perceived threat from other languages seems less real.

Where do we go from here?

Here at blen our mission is to foster real communication through languages education and literacies. We believe that linguistic diversity can be a real asset to a community. It is a positive symbol of our modernity and our confidence to absorb other languages in an English speaking society. It is an important feature in many metropolises around the developed world. For it to be of real commercial, political, financial and societal benefit, linguistic diversity must be woven into the fabric of society. At present, London is linguistically diverse but not a multilingual society with officially recognised languages unlike Switzerland or Singapore. “The threat of a multilingual society” is too remote to be considered.

How do we achieve these goals?

This is where you as teachers are able to shape the future. We need future generations to embrace both their mother tongues and English. At present more than 30% of all London schoolchildren speak a language other than English at home . We need true bilingualism.

This can only be achieved through respecting and fostering linguistic communities through the educational system and the fabric of society. This should not pose a threat to the English language as research has shown us that acknowledging and respecting a first language does not distract from learning a second. If society does not respect their mother tongue then the children won’t either. In fact bilingualism can often strengthen one’s understanding of how language works.

Furthermore those non-English citizens of London have never undervalued the English language. Who can realistically get along and achieve in a society without knowing its language? It is this recognition and understanding which has enabled that the different linguistic groups to achieve beyond colour, race and creed

An interesting book on linguistic diversity amongst school children is Professor Philip Baker’s study: Multilingual Capital: The languages of London's schoolchildren and their relevance to economic, social and educational policies (2001). “It contains a series of 32 full-colour maps by Yasir Mohieldeen which show how the proportion of children who use the most important of these languages varies across the Greater London area. As well as the language survey, eight specialists contribute articles which discuss the historical background to the findings and their relevance to current economic, social and educational policies drawing attention to some of the positive attributes of bilingualism. Two important findings are (1) that, while having a language other than English as one’s mother tongue demands additional resources in schools, multilingualism is an increasingly important economic asset; and (2) that identifying languages spoken by the school population permits a far more detailed and relevant classification into ethnic groups, enabling public services to be targeted more effectively, than does the division into ten ethnic categories used by the census.”

By continually relying on community based mother tongue classes, which have been the backbone to supporting the languages, is a continuous fobbing off of real commitment. However for real integration of these languages the now defunct ILEA (Inner London Education Authority) approach needs to be revived and taken further.

About 25 years ago, there were open debates in London and other British cities on the importance and viability of maintaining the first language of their citizens officially through the educational system. From 1983-1990, the now defunct ILEA has pioneered the incorporation of eight community languages (Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese, Modern Greek) within selected primary and secondary schools. The same authority appointed the first inspector to develop and standardise the teaching and learning of community languages leading to GCSE, AS and A levels. It was a systematic and methodical approach, with training for staff and resources development. It lasted seven and a half years and ended with the abolishment of ILEA. The legacy has been gradually eroded by subsequent governments.

In order for the first language to deliver the advantages which have been repeatedly researched for the past decades, a systematic programme of educational integration to foster and develop the first language is essential. This will enable the first language to go beyond the level of basic communication to become an effective cognitive tool. To succumb to the generalised and liberal notion of vague adulation of multilingualism without any sustained development of linguistic diversity has ebbed and flowed with little success since the seventies.

Is London, let alone Britain ready for sustained and real integration of linguistic diversity?

Categories of linguistic communities in London

Commonwealth citizens. E.U citizens (enhanced by May 2004 new members): Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, United Kingdom. Freedom of movement for members.
Asylum seekers and refugees. Foreign workers from countries outside Commonwealth and E.U. (mostly transient). Indigenous territorial linguistic communities e.g. Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Cornish.

Reference:Evening Standard 25/06/04

Why not read these too?