How English is taught to French children

" can understand tat Mrs H"

Brilliant - intentional or not! You win! xx

I can understand tat Mrs H, I was just trying to bring some objectivity to the debate and explain the situation of language teaching in each country having taught in each. Doesn't excuse the mistakes or the crappy trip though! I've also been a host family in the UK and taken students for years, later visited some in europe and some of the stories about other host families made me mad - people hosting students just for the money, not even eating with them or talking to them. Luck of the draw unfortunately!

I'm sure there are but I have to say I got irritated with the FB discussion earlier today viz the comparison between the two countries. Again.

At the end of the day, I don't live in the UK, I don't pay taxes in the UK, I don't teach in the UK, my kids are not at school in the UK, therefore I have no flipping idea how the two countries compare and....those issues in the UK are really of no interest whatsoever. Thus my only interest is in what happens to my kids (and other people's kids) within the French system!

Comedy interlude;

Taken from the same booklet.

In the bathroom. What is the mysterious string coming down from the ceiling. Pull it and see what happens!

yep, there are some real howlers in text books too from both sides of the channel ;-)

language teaching is just as "bad" in other countries, I did a lot of my teacher training with an italian who is now back in italy teaching french and english, like most italians she can't pronounce the difference between j'ai and je - they both come out j'ai. we always used to talk in italian even when in england and her english and french are poor but she has a degree and a teaching qualification so...

anecdote - during my teacher training we went to see a 'star' teacher teaching a class, all a bit staged of course and she's one of the lead mfl teachers, extra pay etc. she pronounced the "m" of nom and similar words, used verbs that haven't bee used since Molière's times and would have caused more than a smile in France (we were a mix of english and french trainee teachers, all terribly polite but all had a real laugh in the pub later!)

And....I have yet to ever see any support materials that are entirely error free.

My favourite was an audio transcript that Tilly had to listen to last year. Two girls were talking. "I had a really good time when I came in London" said one to the other.

I sniggered.

I'm not justifying the standard of language teaching but put a French kid in a UK school and they'd spend all their time correcting the French spoken by the majority of French teachers. You can't compare simple maths with speaking a foreign language at true native level the two being too far removed from each other. As I've already said, degree level language skills both here in France and in the UK in foreign languages is just that - a foreign language and not a mother tongue - there are mistakes (as there are with native speakers!) I'm a qualified languages teacher and have languages degrees from both countries, BA from Exeter, maîtrise from Aix-en-provence, and can assure most people here that they simply don't understand the true complexity and level required to speak a foreign language as a true native does, in other words it simply is not possible logistically to have truelyy fluent teachers but that doesn't really impact on the overall language learning of kids - after all it's better to have a qualified teacher who can explain a language to kids and control a class of 15 teenagers than someone who can't explain why ones says 'je pense que c'est..." but "je ne pense pas que ce soit..." to take the first example that springs to mind, can't control a class, has no comprehension of learner types, lesson plans etc. even though they can speak the language fluently. For the record, some of the worst french teachers in the UK are french and some of the worst English teachers in France are English. A fantastically gifted and fluent linguist may be a useless teacher, far better results are obtained from a good teacher with midiocre language skills, perfect language skills would be better but not necessary for nearly all levels - that's where the natives take over and where motivation/qualification level means there are no discipline issues. I could go on for ages on this one but won't bore you all, I'm not defending bad language skills, just trying to paint a more balanced picture of what is an extremely complex issue with one of the most difficult subjects to teach (you don't lose complete ability to comunicate and linguistically revert back to a 2 year old when you learn maths and sciences etc...!)

Whilst having some sympathy with the issue of English being taught poorly by non-English speakers, I notice that some of the grammer and spelling in replies by native English speakers is not exactly of the highest standard. As someone who only 'lives' in France for three or four months a year, I am aware that many of the host families that come forward in the UK to take foreign students are often poor, illiterate and desperate for the money they can earn. Consequently, it follows that the food and accommodation will not be of a high standard. Vetting of these families is often scant or non-existent. A friend of mine accommodates the teachers who travel with students, and says there are problems with every group, due to homes being of a poor standard. I would be very wary of sending a child to the UK unless I had done a lot of background research on the organisation who set up the trip.

This teacher's work has not been "ridiculed" - in fact it isn't possible to know who this teacher is as there is no mention of the name, the school or even the type of school! But I think it is fair to point out that there are numerous errors - and as Catherine said - it wouldn't be acceptable to teach children incorrect Maths - so why should it be ok with English (or any other language!)

It doesn't really matter one iota for Tilly. As James said, she is bi-lingual and was effectively on a 'jolly' (the fact that the food was so awful and the accommodation cramped made her appreciate home and mum's cooking when she got back!) but it was a shocking waste of what could have been a great trip for the French kids. The woman they stayed with had an accent so thick that Tilly couldn't understand her so the three French kids had no chance.

Anyway, the most interesting thing about all this is the comparison between this thread and the same one on the FB page. Thoughtful, civilised debate v the usual "go home if you don't like it" brigade.....

This is a moot topic with me. All of the years in and near to Cambridge saw me in a highly concentrated area of 'English' schools. First point must be though, to take away the word 'French' because this type of trip through to summer courses is lashed out generously in the area.

Your concern with grammar and, of course, spelling (given the 'diner' bloomer) are quite right. They show bad preparation at both ends. I also see 'river Cam' whereas the Cam is one of those rivers where the word 'river' is never used (typically in the east of England, see also Ouse, Wale, etc) and thus should not effectively be taught. 'Visit of the Castle of Windsor' is appauling. One could go on.

In Cambridge and surrounding villages we often heard local people refer to 'feral children', seriously. I remember very well when friends in Cherry Hinton on the edge of the city once had four Italian children who went shop lifting. In fact they did not really do that. Nobody explained the money to them, where to get cash or exchange, in fact anything at all. So they went shopping and then not having any English and being used to being provided for by family simply walked out of shops with stuff. They were caught, taken to the particular school then 'home' where their bags were packed and they consigned home. They were all 12 or 13 years old so should not have been that socially unprepared for rather normal events like shopping to begin with.

I had students who occasionally stayed up for the summer to teach in the schools. This is up to 2004, so hardly ancient history. Some of the stories I heard worried me. My big issue is that just because students were at Cambridge or Anglia universities hardly meant they were capable of language teaching, assisting or simply accompanying young people on trips. One woman came to me as her personal tutor for help in leaving her job because the school had apparently refused to accept her notice and said that she would receive no pay if she failed to turn up. I took it to our bursar who tore the school's adminstrator apart for her - she was paid off in the end.

However, the summer school young people were an enigma for many of us. Groups of them drifted about aimlesslessly rather than attending classes, got lost on trips of the kind described here and often experienced reunification with companions/school/lodgings compliments of the constabulary. Plenty of bunches of kids had one of their number with sufficient English, so they did not have to bother themselves. Then, of course, bearing in mind the UK has a terrible track record on teaching its own young languages how can we be expected to teach other people's children? As somebody bilingual I have occasionally listened to (German skilled) 'teachers', 'assistants' with groups of German/Austrian/Swiss children and wondered how on earth the children understood their teachers? With my own slightly dodgy French, but OK Spanish and Dutch plus bits and pieces of other languages I sometimes heard the people explaining things so badly I cringed. But then the principle should be, should it not, that teaching is done in English in mixed groups and one-to-one guidance is offered where possible. Native, or at least habitual, English speakers are also supposed to host these students.

Apart from that, Andrew says much oh what I would otherwise be saying and Catharine's point on the maths teach is absolutely at the core of the issue. Money back, etc? I would at least demand partial repayment just to see what the excuses fired back are...

the scandinavian countries always come out top but that's a lot to do with their culture too - they have no film industry and are used to seeing foreign (mainly english) films and TV from the word go. they also realise that they really need english for the working world, this is also why so many anglophones don't bother and so the results are so poor. go to any uk company and start asking questions in french and you'll get blank looks whereas here most people will be able to speak a little (experience from having taught in industry and businesses for a number of years here)as for the best way to teach languages well that one will run and run, most english kids here in france have the best possible opening - total immersion at an age where they can handle it. learning phrases is good to get going but what happens when you want to say something you haven't learnt the phrase for... that's where you need the grammar to be able to take what you know apart and build the new phrase.

Sheila, yes I can understand that but a generation ago everyone spoke patoi here so English was their third foreign language, infact the more you learn the easier they become ;-)

Andrew, it should be noted that Irish children from day one in school also have to take the Irish language from day one until the end of second level education, which I think skews the data, as it is not considered a foreign language, but it nevertheless can make it difficult to take a third language. In general, a third language is not offered as part of the curriculum until second level.

Interestingly I was chatting to a Swedish student the other day who told me that they learnt English by being given a phrase in Swedish and then told "this is how you say it in English" - now I'm not au fait with Scandinavian teaching methodologies but given that 80 -90% of Danes speak excellent English and that all the non- French students I get (Russian, Swedish, Danish etc) speak much better English than their French colleagues, there seems to be room for improvement.

But Catharine, it works for the vast majority, how many native speakers of english can explain english grammar to french kids, why isn't it "i live her since 6 years" rather than "I've lived (or been living - explain that one and the exeptions...!) here for 6 years", just one of hundreds of examples. As a rule you need to start off with someone of your own nationality who can explain things, then go on to native speakers once your level increases. Or go the full immersion route but that's not for everyone and is very hard to put into practice. the uk can't find enough degree qualified languages teachers so how would it find enough native speakers, the same situation would happen in France if they wanted qualified PGCE/CAPES native teachers - simply impossible logistically. Languages are very very different to most other subjects but I like your 2 + 2 idea, I've seen languages teachers here and in the UK who would end up with 97 as the answer...! ;-D

It's interesting isn't it how this only seems to be 'accepted' with language teaching? Can you imagine anyone not being up in arms about a maths teacher for example, teaching children that 2 + 2 = 5.....

let's not forget that we're along way from an ideal world and that kids learn a whole load of things at school, not just languages, the uk and ireland come bottom of the eu survey on foreign language learning...!

Talking of english teachers my son whom attends a lycee in Rennes had an Indian teach english!!

My daughter did the same as others correcting the english teacher and she was then ignored and had her cards marked!!

My daugher is 13, we have lived in France for almost 3 years. When we first arrived in France, she attended a college with an international section, and for the first 2 years, she struggled - she was fluent enough in French to chat with her friends (who, incidently, were mostly American, and spoke English if she struggled), but she wasn't able to keep up in class (which was taught in French). Last September, we moved her to a local college, French speaking only, figuring that if she wasn't being helped in the International section, we should try 'immersion therapy'! lol. After almost one school year, she now speaks excellent French, wee-zowt zee accent!, and most of her new friends only speak French or German. Anyway, getting to the point, she was fortunate in that she was able to take English as her chosen language, and her prof d'Anglais (who is German) was so pleased to have a 'real' English speaker in the class - Toria nervously corrected her on some grammar during her second week, and the teacher thanked her and invited her to correct her if ever necessary! (She does this occasionally, but is a little shy at school). She is popular in the class, especially with the kids who struggle in English! lol Ideally, English teachers should be English, or at least be able to hold a proper conversation in English - unfortunately, this doesn't usually appear to be the case - at Toria's school, the physic's teacher speaks better English than the English teacher!

As a side note, our youngest, 9 years old, attends a bi-lingual school - German and French (we are pretty much on the border, so it's quite common here). Out of the four days he attends school, he has two in German and two in French - everything, from the minute they arrive until they leave, is in the language of the day. It works! He is now tri-lingual! :)

It's a real pity, isn't it? I've been doing school support in English for awhile now, and I find that the average high school student's level is equal to a English 11-year old. And they never get to develop any verbal or listening fluency.