Magazine topic: 
Life around the world

Languages in schools

by : 
KatieS

I’ve just moved to Germany for a year as part of my university course. I am working in a school in a small town in North Rhine – Westphalia, Germany this year and I’ve been here just over a month now. I’m starting to settle in and I’m learning lots about how the school system is different here and what is “normal” in Germany. I am an English Language Assistant at the school which means I help teach the children English, especially their conversational skills. I work with a range of classes, from year 5 (the youngest, aged 10 – 11) to year 10 (the oldest, aged 15 – 16) so I get to see the different levels of English in the school, and hopefully this means I will be helping a lot of people!

In England I don’t think learning languages is taken so seriously, although it is becoming more important as more and more businesses work internationally now. At school I learned German and Spanish, but foreign languages are not considered to be main subjects, which are English, Maths and Science. Here in Germany, where everyone has to learn English, English is one of the most important subjects, along with German and Maths. They start learning English in primary school and have to study it until the end of school, and many schools have some bilingual lessons! For example at the school I am working at, History and Geography are taught in English which must be very difficult, but it means the children have more opportunities to improve their English.

The children in Germany also seem much more motivated to learn English than English children are to learn other languages. Maybe this is because there are a lot of English and American things in daily life, such as songs and films here. At home in England, it is hard to practise foreign languages because the vast majority of our music and films are in English. A lot of English people can be lazy in terms of learning other languages because they think that everyone can speak English, but I don’t think this is a good attitude. In my opinion, the emphasis on learning another language (English) here is a really good thing, but maybe as a language student myself, I’m a bit biased! 

Discussion

How many languages do you learn at school? How old were you when you started learning English?