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Patrick Andrews

Choice of languages to be taught in schools

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 11 Aug 2021, 16:52

There has recently been some discussion of increasing the numbers of schools that teach Latin - see https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/aug/08/requiescat-in-pace-no-need-to-resurrect-latin-in-schools for a response to this.  This seems to be an ill thought out response to the crisis in language teaching in this country.

I studied Latin at school for a couple of years although I never got to a high standard.  I can see the value of learning Latin for its intrinsic interest as a language and for the access to history.  However, of the languages I have studied (French, Russian and Chinese), it is the only one I have not made an effort to maintain (I am currently practising the latter two on Duolingo and read some texts and watch films in French.

There seems to be an argument that most learners will have less investment (Norton 2000) in learning Latin than modern languages.  There might, for example, be an incentive for schoolchildren to learn languages like Polish or Urdu.  These would be languages that would seem relevant in many communities where pupils might hear the languages or see shops with words written in those languages.

These languages would be at least as intellectually challenging as Latin (e.g. Polish has cases) but would have the advantage of seeming relevant to the modern world.

Norton, B. (2000) Identity And Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity And Educational Change, London, Pearson Education.

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Patrick Andrews

Translation in times of crisis

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 23 Dec 2020, 12:36

I have just seen a tweet about a poor translation of advice into Polish https://twitter.com/TOrynski/status/1341540344832385024?s=20

The description of how poor it is makes use of back translation, a topic covered in L161.  A famous, but perhaps jokey, example is the back translation of "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" from Russian to "the vodka is good but the meat is bad".

It is surprising that the authorities could not find a good translator for the advice, especially considering how large the Polish community is in the UK.

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Patrick Andrews

Language and identity

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 3 Jan 2018, 16:58

This article about an increasing interest in Luxembourgish is quite intriguing and relates to some of the issues discussed on some OU courses, especially L161, "Exploring Languages and Cultures"


One key theme of the article is the ability to have a private language.  As one person says "it expands your view and your children cannot talk in a secret language that you do not understand.”

I have also been reading "Flight" by the Polish writer, Olga Tokarczuk and she writes pityingly of those who only speak English as follows:

"There are countries where people speak English .  But not like us - we have our own languages in our carry on luggage.... only ever using English when we travel, and then only in foreign countries.  It's hard to imagine but English is their real language.  They don't have anything to fall back on or turn to in moments of doubt.

"How lost they must feel in the world, where all instructions, all the lyrics of the stupidest possible songs, all the menus, all the excrutiating pamphlets and brochures - even the buttons in the lift - are in their private language. They may be understood by anyone at any moment....." (Tokarczuk 2007/2017: 183).

Tokarczuk O (2007 translated 2017) Flight London: Fitzcarraldo.

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Patrick Andrews

"Minority" languages

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 23 Mar 2015, 15:14

I have recently heard that several languages are being cut at A Level.  Amongst the languages affected are Polish, Bengali, Modern Hebrew and Panjabi http://www.aqa.org.uk/supporting-education/policy/gcse-and-a-level-changes/structure-of-new-a-levels

This seems strange for all of the languages but the withdrawal of Polish seems particularly surprising:

- as Polish is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the UK after English.According to the ONS (2013), it is the most common "other" language in the UK.

- is a language spoken in an important EU partner

- is similar to many other languages in Eastern Europe

- is a contrasting language to English and students studying Polish can get a greater awareness of language features such as cases.

A petition can be signed at:



ONS (2013) Language in England and Wales 2011 Available at http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/census/2011-census-analysis/language-in-england-and-wales-2011/rpt---language-in-england-and-wales--2011.html [Accessed 23/03/2015]

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