OU blog

Personal Blogs

Patrick Andrews

Choice of languages to be taught in schools

Visible to anyone in the world
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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post


New comment

Hi Patrick,

I think learning Latin might be a good thing,  because a lot of our english words have their roots in the Latin language.

Many other words in other languages too, such as French, Italian and Spanish for example, have their roots in Latin. It may generate an  interest to learn to speak other languages.


Patrick Andrews

New comment

I agree to an extent, Gill but why not learn an existing language instead?  French lexis is influenced by Latin so why not learn the language students can practise in the world?  Latin is an introduction to some features like cases but German and Russian, for example, also have cases.

Learning any language is good but it seems that learning languages that are spoken seems more likely to engage learners.