Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ah, les pauvres

Legal Alien (Gladly Suffering Fools over on the link list, which I swear I'm going to update very soon because I read some great blogs that aren't up there) made a comment a couple of days ago in reference to my remark about the very well known and throughly documented French language learning deficiency gene.

Ask nearly any French person if they speak a foreign language and you get a repsonse along the lines of "Well, I've studied English for 8 (or 9 or 10!) years but you know the French suck at foreign languages."

And actually, to be fair, most of them don't have a level of ease in English that should correspond to the number of hours spent in English class, but it's not their fault. Until university, languages are not taught to be spoken. Seriously. Communication is not the goal. Writing, translation, and lofty literary texts have been the cornerstones of language pedagogy here for years. Centuries, even. Although recent times has seen a serious wateringing down of the lofty thing. I believe a waste of paper book by Mary Higgins Clark was actually on last year's required reading list.

Those who go to university get a slightly more practical version of English, depending on what their main course of study is. And people who go into fields where English is necessary (especially those who study in specialized universities or private colleges) finally get language classes like they should be, more or less.

Then everyone enters the work world and some of that everyone need English to work. Those who got some good instruction after high school get by. And those who didn't, well, they sign up for private lessons at the Chamber of Commerce or a private language school and start all over again, all the time thinking the reason they don't speak it well is because they suck. Poor things.

7 comments:

beth said...

That explains why your student said what he did - that he's learned more in your class than in his other years of English classes! And, the fact that I'm sure you're an excellent teacher.

Nicole said...

Excellent, I doubt, and that's not false modesty, just realism. I'm not organized enough to be a really good teacher. However, I do make a point of never recommending Mary Higgins Clark.

Samantha said...

I took French classes at a Uni here and befriended a French woman who was in her second year of an English degree, and she'd only taken ONE oral communication class. Everything else was history, literature, civics, etc. She could read and write fine, but could barely string a sentence together!

Samantha said...

PS. Nice to meet you too ;-)

Lorraine said...

On the other hand, I still remember how when we came for your wedding MIL spoke very little English and by the end of the week she was speaking English in complete sentances whereas we only managed to learn how to correctly pronounce the handful of French we came in with. D'accord.

charlie said...

The Glaswegian Neds have the same problem with English except they can't write it either. And when last in America I heard some Texans who seemed to be having similar problems. There are perhaps openings for EFL schools in many places :)

polona said...

that's an interesting issue. i went through an educational system that didn't allow for much indipendent thinking, and languages were not taught to be spoken; though i was lucky enough to have had a couple of exceptional english teachers, my spoken english is by far less fluent than my writing.
as to the french and their alleged inability to learn foreign languages... i work in a french-owned firm and most of the communication between the french and us is done in english. no real problems with the written communication, but i sometimes think i'd understand them better if they spoke french (and french is pretty much la terre inconnue for me). the official language is of course slovene, and many of the french have actually learned it, though it's one of the more complicated languages to learn, and some of them actually use it in everyday life.