Lost in transition

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WITH reference to your editorial and reports, (27 November), greater language skills were ­recognised as crucial in the 1980s and 90s within Scottish ­education.

The Primary Modern Languages Pilot Project was resourced and run by the then Scottish Education Department and broke new ground. Primary and secondary schools were offered the chance to develop competence in modern languages in a seamless transition where children from as young as seven were taught through games, audio-visual methods, songs, artwork and fun activities, with secondary teachers working alongside their primary ­colleagues to offer a shared experience. Younger children have few inhibitions.

This contributed hugely to the confidence and competence of primary-age children so that little or no embarrassment was evident when they reached ­secondary level, met teachers they knew and used material they felt comfortable with.

The main approach was the “immersion” method where the languages (German, French, Italian or Spanish) were incorporated into other school subjects and used confidently by primary teachers trained both in Scotland and in the countries from where the languages originated. All of this was funded and resourced from the SED, sometimes with additional funding from the countries concerned. The University of Stirling gave valued support.

Like many projects, however, it began to run into the sand when the money dried up and other priorities took over. Consistency would have prevented the need for The Scotsman and other media outlets to have to draw attention to it now.

The Scottish Government has an ambitious goal in modern language teaching but this is vital if Scotland is to compete on equal terms with other countries in future.

If there has been diminished follow-through since then, now is the time to move ahead and reinvigorate the enthusiasm and positive energy shown by Scottish teachers during those heady days of 20 years ago. To use ­US President Barack Obama’s mantra: “Yes, we can.”

Stephen Smith


Scottish Borders

Forget the teaching of foreign languages or even Gaelic. It would be much better to improve the teaching of English to get rid of the “doneing” and “wenting” so prevalent in modern speech.

The worst culprits are football pundits who are allowed by the broadcasters to get away with examples such as … “they have went well”…“he has grew into some player”…“we seen it happening”. I am led to believe that some have university degrees.

Some time ago I interviewed a job candidate who had Higher English and an honours degree in media studies. When asked if she had been trained to write a press release, she replied: “Yes, we done that in first year.”

Interview over, job prospect gone.

Ross Muir

Dunfermline Road

Limekilns, Fife