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Roland Martin - Issue #29


Roland Martin

September 13 · Issue #29 · View online

Headmaster - City of London Freemen's school; Chief Officer - City of London; Chair - Society of Heads - '...write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing' Benjamin Franklin

Parlez vous … Sprechen Sie … Habla … 你会说 … spreek je … la oe e olelo aku ai … あなたは話せますか … tu parli? (With thanks to Google translate …)  

Something I maintain ...
Many a parent or student will have heard me proclaim the virtues of keeping a language up. When students are reaching academic crossroads and unsure of what options to take forward, if they are capable, I will, time after time, recommend that they continue to study a foreign language. 
It may be a seemingly odd recommendation for someone whose career has been grounded in studying and teaching the nuances of his mother tongue. My aptitude for languages at school was limited - certainly a regret.
Admittedly, I don’t think I wanted to learn a language enough as a child, and there were obstacles. French foxed me, I’m afraid, the spelling was too irregular for someone - to cite Milne - whose spelling was ‘wobbly’; Latin was a little easier to learn, easier to master once you knew the rules; but I still lament not being fluent in another language. 
Wanting it enough: why motivation is the key to language learning | Education | The Guardian
It's good for you ...
There are countless explorations online of why it’s good for your brain to learn a second, third, fourth, nth language. From the discussions of bilingual children in the Huffington Post
7 Reasons Why It's Good To Speak Another Language | Huffington Post
- to the 2004 neuroscience from the likes of the BBC - 
BBC NEWS | Health | Learning languages 'boosts brain'
- to the claim that it makes you better at English in The Telegraph. A well trodden path, and a staple of careers advice in the 70s and 80s:
Why learn a foreign language? Benefits of bilingualism - Telegraph
And then there’s the reassurance for the middle aged among us that it’s not, in fact, too late - 
Am I too old to learn a new language? | Education | The Guardian
- indeed, maturity may come with some advantages, it seems. 
But for now, I’m going to keep on peddling my advice to the young, in spite of the fact that I have come across adults who have suggested that children should not have to learn any languages and spend more time on Maths. Yes, seriously. 
Learn a foreign language. Why? To open your eyes to a different culture; to read literature in its original form; to speak to - and crucially, connect with - foreign travellers, colleagues and friends; to travel abroad without feeling lost. And long-term, incidentally, I would imagine that there will be plenty of jobs available for skilled linguists when a generation of talented communicators leave voids to fill.
Every now and again, educationalists pontificate about the crises in classrooms as the UK might seem to be isolating itself from the rest of the world. Findings in The Guardian‘s 2015 'Living Languages’ report make for sobering reading: children, nationally, perceive learning a language to be ‘hard’ (they don’t take to poetry either, which is another personal bug-bear); language study at A Level is in decline; over the last few years, the lowest number of undergraduates studying foreign languages has been recorded. 
Do young people care about learning foreign languages? | Education | The Guardian
Flags ...
As a counterpoint to these findings, I’m glad to be in a position to support linguistic study, and wave a multicultural flag for the cause. Antidotes to the rote learning of the 1980s exist now because technology has opened up new ways of learning. I’d really like to learn Italian one day; I doubt I’ll go to night school like my parents’ generation might’ve done, instead, were I to start tomorrow, I expect I’d download an app, or sign up for a MOOC with Futurelearn or the likes. Thank goodness that tech developers and university outreach departments see value in continuing to invest in linguistic connectivity. 
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