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UK school children turn backs on French language

European day languageJUST how important do the British believe studying the French language really is? Not much if a recent survey and a study of A level results is to be believed.

In a survey by YouGov parents in the UK were asked how important different subjects were, with as you'd expect maths and English language topping the charts.

But far behind was the study of a foreign language with just 43 per cent of respondents considering French an important subject to learn.

German (31%) and Spanish (30%) even come below more vocational subjects such as electronics, technology and woodwork (77%), home economics and cookery (71%) and personal, social and health education (70%) in terms of importance.

And these findings seem to be part of an overall decline in the study of languages, in 2006 I highlighted a steep decline in the number of children studying GCSE French.

While this year's A level results show 13,850 students studied French this year as entries slumped by more than three per cent in just 12 months.

Over the last 10 years, the number of pupils studying the subject in the sixth-form has fallen by a third.

While the number of school children studying French declines, there is nothing stopping you improving your language skills with a few internet stops, here are a few:

Free and/or public domain materials for listening to & reading languages simultaneously - ielanguages
A collection of useful websites, and tips, highlighting places were you can read along while listening to French texts - one of the best ways to learn.

News clips from TV5 Monde
Watch the individual news reports, read transcripts and have a go at a number of different types of questions such as simple multiple choice to grammar challenges.

The French section provides worksheets for different school years which you can print off.

Le Conjugueur
This site will help you conjugate verbs, write out numbers in French, understand basic grammar rules and maybe answer some of those language puzzles you face.

European Day of Languages
At the end of September a range of events are organised across Europe: activities for and with children, television and radio programmes, language classes and conferences.

Support This French Life and buy greeting cards and postcards from the Dordogne


Jon Doust

I probably ought to care more than I do, but it's their loss. Also, it makes my (and my children's) skills just a tad more valuable.

I understand that the fashion in the UK these days is to learn one of the Chinese languages. Quite how children are to manage this when they can't even manage to master a language as closely related as French is to English is not clear to me.

Craig McGinty

Hi Jon, it does make you wonder what opportunities will open up to those who show willing and decide to learn a foreign language, sounds as though your children are well set.
All the best, Craig


Hi, I am not sure if it is the children turning their backs on the French language, or ir is the system.I have been trying to arrange to study French GCSE as a mature student in the Manchester area of Lancashire, and I am finding it almost impossible,interestingly I have been offered Spanish and Italian as an alternative, not much use when we have a house in French.
Keep up the good work with the newsletter,

Craig McGinty

Hi Gilly, I suppose it is a bit of a viscous circle! But if you are able to get into Manchester I used Alliance Francaise before heading to France to improve my language skills, more at:
All the best, Craig

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