Join TSR now and get all your revision questions answeredSign up now

Are we too lazy to learn a second language? Watch

    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    I have a presentation coming up on the topic of languages. The question I'm asking is 'Are we too lazy to learn languages?'.

    I'm not sure about you, but I've found that a lot of people my age (20) are not familiar with, or don't speak other languages. Not even to the point of being fluent, but even basic words and phrases seem to be alien to them. However, I know several older people around my parents' ages who know other languages fluently.

    I was wondering if other people could give me some ideas on this topic? Are we too lazy to learn languages? Do you think there should be more of a push in primary schools to teach children other languages? Or do you think this is unnecessary considering a lot of people from other countries speak English anyway?

    Thanks!
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    I learned French for 8 years and I'm not particularly fluent.

    I think the standard of teaching is poor.
    Offline

    17
    ReputationRep:
    I genuinely cannot do languages. I'm just not talented at that. I can never my tongue round the words sometimes they use or remember any of it.

    Posted from TSR Mobile
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    I would say that the curriculum and teaching of second languages in the UK schools, in general, sucks. I have A grades in Spanish, French and German at GCSE. I can get by in French just about, but really have no useful Spanish or German at all. So an A grade doesn't seem to mean much. I studied Mandarin as an open unit while at university and have far better recall of that than the GCSE taught languages which I spent much more time over through school.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    I think it is a case of necessity rather than laziness. English is the dominant world language and that is unlikely to change any time soon, it's certainly a good idea to try and learn a new language however on the practical side of things unless you want to go and work in another country or are planning to go into a field where being multilingual is either essential or highly recommended you may have no need to learn another language. I honestly think that English as a language is not taught in enough depth at schools and as a result we are increasingly seeing a population with very limited language skills. There are over 171,000 English words in current use around the world, the average person has a vocabulary of between 5000-6000. Not only does that mean certain useful words and phrases are beginning to die out but as a people we are not communicating to the full extent that our language allows.

    Just my two cents, but i would put more in depth teaching of the English language ahead of learning foreign languages especially for young children.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by whatsophiesaid)
    I have a presentation coming up on the topic of languages. The question I'm asking is 'Are we too lazy to learn languages?'.

    I'm not sure about you, but I've found that a lot of people my age (20) are not familiar with, or don't speak other languages. Not even to the point of being fluent, but even basic words and phrases seem to be alien to them. However, I know several older people around my parents' ages who know other languages fluently.

    I was wondering if other people could give me some ideas on this topic? Are we too lazy to learn languages? Do you think there should be more of a push in primary schools to teach children other languages? Or do you think this is unnecessary considering a lot of people from other countries speak English anyway?

    Thanks!
    I think the main problem is that even if children are taught languages and if they're compulsory, unless we use them we forget them. I myself learned French for 5 years till GCSE level (got a B in the end) and now at 17 maybe a few phrases still linger in my head... Maybe I'd understand basic spoken/ written French but its gradually fading.
    I took up learning Japanese in my free time since then simply because I find it fascinating rather than it being compulsive in school and I bet if I spent more time on it (A levels aren't letting me at the moment) I'd reach some sort of level of proficiency.
    Last example, English is my second language and I've learned it when I came to this country 8 years ago (when I learned it back in my country absolutely nothing went in) and now aside from being fluent alongside my second language (Polish), I'm targeting an A in my English Language A-Level where not just knowing English is required but stripping it down to its core grammatical structures...
    So overall, I think it's the real life application is what's the most important. People won't learn a language unless they have to or want to and as they need to know any language aside from English in England or even abroad it's not something that concerns most people.


    Posted from TSR Mobile
    Offline

    13
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by whatsophiesaid)
    I have a presentation coming up on the topic of languages. The question I'm asking is 'Are we too lazy to learn languages?'.

    I'm not sure about you, but I've found that a lot of people my age (20) are not familiar with, or don't speak other languages. Not even to the point of being fluent, but even basic words and phrases seem to be alien to them. However, I know several older people around my parents' ages who know other languages fluently.

    I was wondering if other people could give me some ideas on this topic? Are we too lazy to learn languages? Do you think there should be more of a push in primary schools to teach children other languages? Or do you think this is unnecessary considering a lot of people from other countries speak English anyway?

    Thanks!
    I think it's probably too simple to say people are simply "lazy" (although I'm sure that would certainly apply to some people!) - from what I've experienced there are a number of reasons why learning a language doesn't appeal to people very much.

    The teaching of foreign languages in this country is awful. Just shocking. The curriculum isn't interesting or fun. Kids aren't taught how to have a normal conversation in the language, they're made to learn by heart vocabulary to be used in debates for climate change, pollution, etc. Learning phrases and sentences off by heart just isn't useful - students need to be able to speak spontaneously and naturally instead of reeling off what they've copied down from the teacher. Grammar that is deemed to be too complex or hard to explain is just skipped over, or over-simplified to the point of complete inaccuracy (e.g. in French, most teachers will explain that les = the, des = some. Which is just not correct).

    From an early age, learning a language is seen as boring, hours of poring over grammar books and trying to untangle complex structures and twist your tongue over strange words. This is what needs to change - the way it is taught at the moment, it's not surprising people don't want to learn a new language!


    Also there's this thing you've mentioned in your post - English is the dominant language, so people think that means we don't have to know any other languages. They therefore think learning another language is pointless - why bother if everyone speaks English, right? In reality, people who can speak more than one language are proven to be the most sought after by employers - it's a really useful skill, so it shouldn't be dismissed so easily.

    I've been lucky, I was able to learn French through living in France, and because of that I understand the language well, and I've gone on to study Spanish, Portuguese, hopefully one day Italian too. But I have no doubt that if I had just studied French in English school, I would have hated it and not taken it any further than GCSE.





    tl;dr. The main reason is that the teaching of foreign languages is pretty awful in this country. :unimpressed:
    Offline

    11
    ReputationRep:
    The ML lessons at our school for years 7,8,9 are pathetic. You learn nothing.

    I definitely believe that modern languages should be compulsory at primary schools as well (years 5 and 6 maybe?). Picking up a new language is more natural at that kind of age.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    I think there is to some extent an expectation that others should learn English if they wish to speak with Anglophones, but I don't think we're too 'lazy' to learn a language. Personally I know a fair few people who speak two languages (including myself), but because there is little necessity to speak different languages most people don't capitalise on years of free language education.

    Yes, the way of teaching languages in Britain is poor but a language cannot and should not be learned purely in a classroom environment. Because there is a general disengagement with speaking foreign languages among many pupils at school, it's not surprising that people don't know how to speak after '5 years of learning' or however long. Many people claim they have been learning for a period but they've never really made an effort. You can't become an expert in any subject just by doing it for a few hours a week, in a really unfocused way, for a few years. I'd go as far to say that in most school subjects you can't actually claim any form of competency in the real life subject (not the watered down academic one) if you've stuck rigidly into a scheme or textbook.

    Personally I think language lessons should aim to inspire children to learn a language, and introduce them to materials of interest to them - be it music, books, films, sport, or as it was in my case a really attractive female penpal. Then people will want to learn a language and school language lessons wouldn't be a waste of time. If a language is something you learn in school there's no point, if it's a tool that can be used to help enrich your experience of living there is.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    For alot of people including myself, english is so widely spoken that weve never had to use another foreign language, most holiday destinations/resorts have english speaking staff etc.

    So I dont think its laziness, more feasibility, is it worth learning a language you mightent ever use? ofcourse it can open up new avenues of interest (penpals etc)

    That being said I am currently looking into a foreign language to improve my career prospects in this country and others (I do IT work and a good portion of it is support over phone/skype or similar) there is slightly more desireable jobs in that field if you have a second language) not to mention the ability to work in a different country.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    The languages teachers in my school have a really tough time of it and can't wait to teach us 6th formers because the younger years not only don't see the point of learning other languages but have a complete lack of respect for different cultures in general. None of them see the point of learning French or German if they're going straight on to work with their dad just down the road as soon as they leave...It's such a shame but I think that the teachers do the best they can with what they've got. Although I agree that the curriculum should focus more on being able to communicate with native French speakers and being able to get by in France, in areas like mine that doesn't mean they'll show any more interest...
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    I'm doing my ALevel in German, sitting on a B and am currently studying A2
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    I would argue there isn't enough time in the day to commit to it due to work/education unless you specifically do it for education rather than being lazy, this goes for any hobbies, not just learning foreign languages. We live in a world were we work/go to college come home late from work, have tea and go to bed because you have to get up early the next day or education, come home from college with homework, revision to do etc.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by emilie18)
    I think it's probably too simple to say people are simply "lazy" (although I'm sure that would certainly apply to some people!) - from what I've experienced there are a number of reasons why learning a language doesn't appeal to people very much.

    The teaching of foreign languages in this country is awful. Just shocking. The curriculum isn't interesting or fun. Kids aren't taught how to have a normal conversation in the language, they're made to learn by heart vocabulary to be used in debates for climate change, pollution, etc. Learning phrases and sentences off by heart just isn't useful - students need to be able to speak spontaneously and naturally instead of reeling off what they've copied down from the teacher. Grammar that is deemed to be too complex or hard to explain is just skipped over, or over-simplified to the point of complete inaccuracy (e.g. in French, most teachers will explain that les = the, des = some. Which is just not correct).

    From an early age, learning a language is seen as boring, hours of poring over grammar books and trying to untangle complex structures and twist your tongue over strange words. This is what needs to change - the way it is taught at the moment, it's not surprising people don't want to learn a new language!


    Also there's this thing you've mentioned in your post - English is the dominant language, so people think that means we don't have to know any other languages. They therefore think learning another language is pointless - why bother if everyone speaks English, right? In reality, people who can speak more than one language are proven to be the most sought after by employers - it's a really useful skill, so it shouldn't be dismissed so easily.

    I've been lucky, I was able to learn French through living in France, and because of that I understand the language well, and I've gone on to study Spanish, Portuguese, hopefully one day Italian too. But I have no doubt that if I had just studied French in English school, I would have hated it and not taken it any further than GCSE.

    tl;dr. The main reason is that the teaching of foreign languages is pretty awful in this country. :unimpressed:
    Absolutely agree with this! You don't really learn the language, just set phrases and structures parrot style, as everything is geared towards the exam.

    It's then really discouraging, when you've been learning French for a good few years, have been getting good grades in the classroom, yet can barely make conversation in the real world.

    (Original post by Darth Stewie)
    I think it is a case of necessity rather than laziness. English is the dominant world language and that is unlikely to change any time soon, it's certainly a good idea to try and learn a new language however on the practical side of things unless you want to go and work in another country or are planning to go into a field where being multilingual is either essential or highly recommended you may have no need to learn another language. I honestly think that English as a language is not taught in enough depth at schools and as a result we are increasingly seeing a population with very limited language skills. There are over 171,000 English words in current use around the world, the average person has a vocabulary of between 5000-6000. Not only does that mean certain useful words and phrases are beginning to die out but as a people we are not communicating to the full extent that our language allows.

    Just my two cents, but i would put more in depth teaching of the English language ahead of learning foreign languages especially for young children.
    I agree that the level of English is getting worrying low, which is an issue that needs to be addressed. Learning English and learning foreign languages don't necessarily need to be mutually exclusive though, as a lot of our more sophisticated vocabulary comes from French, and learning the grammatical structures of a foreign language helps you to understand your own better.
    Offline

    11
    ReputationRep:
    Learning a second language is a very good mental practice and can help us sympathise with others who speak different languages.

    I am disappointed I never put a lot more effort into Afrikaans at school, I am 'semi-fluent' but 10,000km away I want more than ever to improve it, having a Saffa friend here with it as his first language should help.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    The reason native speakers of the English language do not usually learn second languages (especially in current school regimes) is because English is the current WORLD LANGUAGE... maybe not for too much longer- this is the current debate as Chinese the second and rising. There is no need for the English to learn another language unless wanting to live abroad... mostly because people from most other countries learn English as a second language because it is seen as 'needed'.
    Offline

    15
    ReputationRep:
    I think teaching from a very young age is the only way to go. I got an A at French GCSE, two marks from an A*, but I am so far from fluent it's unbelievable. I can just about get by in a basic conversation, as long as no-one cares about what tense I'm speaking in.

    Conversely I got a B in Welsh Language and a C in Welsh Literature, and yet I'm completely fluent in Welsh, I'm doing one of my uni assignments in Welsh (we're allowed to ), I chat to my teachers, some of my friends and to my other half in Welsh. I learned it entirely at school; my parents don't speak Welsh. My friends who are learning Welsh have commented that it's a difficult language to learn.

    The difference? I started learning Welsh at 3, I started learning French at 11. Early education is better, in my opinion, because you soak up everything like a sponge at that age.

    ETA: Just to add, I'm not suggesting Welsh should be taught in all schools. I feel it should be taught in all primary schools in Wales, or at least be on offer in one primary school in every town and village in Wales - but that's irrelevant. Instead something like Spanish or Chinese.
    Offline

    7
    ReputationRep:
    As others have said the teaching method is poor, I have studied French and German for 6 and 1.5 years respectively and can't get by in either. However I recently began teaching myself Russian (MT method) and am surprised at how easy it is to pick up (at least at basic beginner level).

    The choice of languages is also very limited; French, German and Spanish may be the most practical languages but they aren't really exciting, or culturally that different from the UK. In my opinion Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Arabic etc are all useful to some degree and are far more interesting than the languages on the current curriculum.
    Offline

    2
    (Original post by Darth Stewie)
    I think it is a case of necessity rather than laziness. English is the dominant world language and that is unlikely to change any time soon, it's certainly a good idea to try and learn a new language however on the practical side of things unless you want to go and work in another country or are planning to go into a field where being multilingual is either essential or highly recommended you may have no need to learn another language. I honestly think that English as a language is not taught in enough depth at schools and as a result we are increasingly seeing a population with very limited language skills. There are over 171,000 English words in current use around the world, the average person has a vocabulary of between 5000-6000. Not only does that mean certain useful words and phrases are beginning to die out but as a people we are not communicating to the full extent that our language allows.
    Surely as there are so many ESL learners, we should focus on doing the opposite of what you suggest: teach people how to communicate effectively with a smaller vocabulary and simpler grammar. Using uncommon vocabulary or idiomatic phrases will make communicate harder with the majority of English speakers (who are non-native), not easier.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Kolya)
    Surely as there are so many ESL learners, we should focus on doing the opposite of what you suggest: teach people how to communicate effectively with a smaller vocabulary and simpler grammar. Using uncommon vocabulary or idiomatic phrases will make communicate harder with the majority of English speakers (who are non-native), not easier.
    I don't see why we should dumb down our native language, thereby limiting our ability to communicate, just to simplify matters for speakers of other languages. It's comparable to suggesting we change the number system because not everyone can count past ten. English is a rich language with a strong link to our cultural history. Some of the most well known writers and philosphers in the world have written in English. Why cater for the lowest common denominator? Moreover, simplifying vocabulary is dangerous as it limits out ability to express ourselves: have you not read 1984?

    IMO your suggestion is insulting to English speakers and patronising to those learning English.
 
 
 
Poll
Should MenACWY vaccination be compulsory at uni?

The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

Quick reply
Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.