"Dw i ddim yn deall; wyt ti'n siarad Saesneg?"
('I don't understand; do you speak English?')
Growing up as an English speaker is, in many ways, pretty cushy. Not only is it the mother tongue of the Anglosphere, it's also one of the official languages of dozens of other countries. It's taught in schools the world over, and you can feel fairly secure in the knowledge that wherever you go another English speaker won't be too far away.
I can't say that I'm entirely convinced. The schools will show more interest in MFL teaching, there is no doubt about that, but unless the subject is made compulsory I don't know if this would be enough to tackle the widespread apathy towards MFL learning.
You have the extra difficulty in Wales of compulsory Welsh, especially in English medium schools in non-Welsh speaking areas. I was in the first year group to take the compulsory Welsh language GCSE and, though I'm in favour of Welsh teaching in schools, I don't think it's any surprise at all that 2002 saw the beginning of a steep decline in MFL take-up. Essentially, you're already learning a 'foreign' language - many people feel no inclination to start learning another.
|Welsh isn't the easiest language to master...|
What should be happening, too, is the promotion of MFLs greatest asset - all the media and things to do it opens up to you. Learning Welsh can be an uphill and (let's face it) boring experience. There's BBC Radio Cymru and S4C but, you know, S4C is a channel which can and often does devote whole days of broadcast time to such events as Young Farmers' Conference. The reality is that 99.99% of the people interested in Young Farmers' Conference are at Young Farmers' Conference. In contrast, learning a modern foreign language offers you a whole new world of literature, film, music, etc, all readily available on the net. There's no excuse for MFL teaching to ever be boring!
|We watched Die Mumins the other day - Anthony retreated to the 'man cave' as he says they're too scary...|
And, of course, what desperately needs to happen is the breaking away from the chokehold of Spanish, French and German. Almost no schools in Wales offer GCSE level Arabic, Hindu or Urdu, and only a handful offer Mandarin. China and India are the power houses of the future, and standard Arabic is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world. Language learning offers so many opportunities and new ideas to people - but you have to make sure those advantages are obvious enough to offset the long hard slog of becoming proficient in it!