Simply learning 'bonjour' is boring, say school children
Many children are being subjected to "boring" language lessons in which they are repeatedly taught the basics such as how to count to ten or say "bonjour", a study has found.
Youngsters in the first year of secondary school say they are made to go over topics that they have already studied earlier in their school career because they are being taught with classmates that are starting from scratch, according to new research.
And primary school children complain of repetition in lessons, saying they are taught to say the same words and phrases more than once.
The study, by Katherine Richardson from Nottingham University, is based on the views and experiences of foreign language lessons of 335 pupils who were in their final term of primary school (Year 6), the first term of their first year at secondary school, or the end of the first year of secondary school (both Year 7). It comes amid major changes to foreign languages in England's state schools, with the subject due to be made compulsory for seven to 11-year-olds from next year.
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The findings show that there was strong support among pupils for learning languages in primary school, but that the links between learning languages in primary and secondary school are often "problematic and disjointed".
Of the primary-age pupils surveyed, around half did not know what language they would be studying when they went to secondary school, and around a third (35%) said they would be studying a different language to the one they had already been learning. Just 14% said they would continue studying the same language.
Secondaries often take pupils from more than one primary school, which can make it difficult to cater to pupils who have learnt different languages earlier on, the study suggests.
"Some secondary pupils concluded that primary language learning did not provide an advantage when studying languages at secondary school regardless of whether they were continuing the same language as, in this situation, many felt they were likely to repeat content taught at primary school – rather than progress – as they were taught in mixed-experience classes alongside pupils with no prior experience of the language," the research found.
Repetition was also a problem for primary school pupils, with one saying: "We get really bored because we're going over the same thing over and over again."
The study, due to be presented to the British Educational Research Association (BERA) also reveals that pupils had concerns about their teachers' expertise, with one saying their teachers had pronounced words wrongly, and another suggesting teachers "just get a book about the language and have to learn it".
Three in five (61%) of the primary school pupils surveyed said that they enjoyed language lessons, this rose to 72% among those in their first term of secondary school, and dropped to 55% among those in the final term of their first year at secondary school.