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Schools urged to change approach to teaching foreign languages

Published:Friday | May 29, 2015 | 5:00 AM

Director of the Centre for Language and Culture Aline Luna Less is advocating for increased offerings of foreign languages in the nation's schools.

"French has been removed from several schools, which is unfortunate, as it should be an option for parents to decide whether they want their children to do more than one language, or if they decide to learn French and not Spanish," she said in an emailed response to questions from The Gleaner.

Less also pointed out that the teaching of second languages is too formal and should focus on culture rather than on linguistics.

"Unfortunately, foreign languages are still taught in a much-too-formal way. It's not about criticising Jamaican teachers, but the teaching of a foreign language in general.

"Culture is not integrated into the curriculum and this is what is the most important. The linguistic system and the syntax will come with time ... . There is a need to see that culture is a way to interest youngsters," she said.

According to her, improving the teaching of second languages requires special training for teachers of second languages - "training sessions on how to teach a language through culture".

Added Less: "The language structure changes with time, but the culture is an important vehicle. That's what motivates persons to learn. So it is sad to see that, because of the need to follow a curriculum, teachers forget to pass on the culture."

She said there are numerous benefits to be gained from learning a second language.

"It gives the brain a boost and we need to train it. Bilingualism is a good way to flex brain muscles. It develops grey matter, which is responsible for processing information such as memory, speech and sensory perception," she said.