By Christine Compston
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Extra resources for A Teacher's Guide to The American Revolution: A History in Documents (Pages from History)
Yet my justification for teaching pupils to communicate in a foreign language differs from the `utilitarian' arguments which promise some future profitable application for languages. First, it is the nature of language that its prime, though not sole, function is interpersonal communication, usually in the form of speech. Yet the language of the classroom is `rehearsal' language (Hawkins, 1981: 240-75; Mitchell, Parkinson & Johnstone, 1981: 66) which does not even have the force of communicating information in the way that children's make-believe does.
There is the feeling that education is not complete without a foreign language. This has become all the more evident in the contemporary world as curricula are re-assessed in the light of the `knowledge explosion' to which we have become particularly sensitive in the twentieth century, and secondly as a result of the extension of schooling to people other than the aristocratic and ruling classes. When `new' subjects begin to demand a place in the curriculum whether computer studies or woodwork and cookery the `old' subjects have to begin to defend and explain their presence; here is one example: Page 9 A l'interieur de la scolarité obligatoire, l'enseignement des langues doit être repensé, dans sa specificité propre et en liaison avec l'ensemble des disciplines (reflexion sur le langage, en liaison avec la langue maternelle et les mathematiques, développement de l'expression personelle en liaison avec les enseignements litteraires et artistiques, ouverture sur le monde en liaison avec l'histoire, la géographie, l'économie, les sciences .
The claim that they are quite compatible is no doubt justified but the vigour with which it is made betrays fears which are not unfounded. In order to Page 10 understand this situation, let us return to the origins of `modern' language teaching in the nineteenth century, where the tensions between the aims and methodologies of ancient (classics) and modern language teaching were not unlike the tensions within foreign language teaching today. In broad terms there have been two opposing tendencies in `modern' language teaching since it was grafted onto `classical' language teaching in the nineteenth century.
A Teacher's Guide to The American Revolution: A History in Documents (Pages from History) by Christine Compston