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Teaching of foreign languages to be replaced by ‘talking very slowly’ lessons

'Six conjugations for one verb? I think not.'Education Secretary Michael Gove today used his speech at the Conservative Party conference to outline radical plans to scrap modern foreign languages as part of the National Curriculum. Under new proposals children will instead be taught to speak slowly and loudly, as if the listener were a particularly stupid person who is also a little hard of hearing.

‘This is all about making what children learn in school more relevant to their future life,’ explained Mr Gove. ‘One of the main problems with learning another language is that kids can sometimes spend years studying French, only to then go on holiday to Benidorm where nobody speaks French. It makes a mockery of the whole system. The beauty of a GCSE in talking slowly and loudly is that it’s a qualification you can take anywhere, especially America.’

Supporters of the scheme have been quick to stress that there is much more to the new subject than simply imagining you are talking to an elderly relative. ‘Students will learn to use wild, stabbing hand-gestures to make themselves understood, and to sprinkle their conversation with authentic ethnic names such as Pedro, Fritz and garçon. Having mastered the basics, they’ll then take advanced modules in ‘Nodding Condescendingly’ and ‘Swearing in Exasperation’, both vital techniques in persuading foreigners that the only thing preventing them understanding you is their own limited intelligence.’

Yet while many Tories welcome the back-to-basics, nineteenth-century approach of talking down to Johnny Foreigner, the less Eurosceptic wing of the party is worried about the effect on the UK’s relations with the continent. ‘Our European neighbours might not have liked it, but each time a sunburnt Brit asked ‘Où est le pub Anglais?’ or dug in his phrase book to find the German for ‘two world wars and one world cup’, at least we were making an effort. If we don’t try and speak their language, I just worry what else the Germans will find to laugh about.’

But Michael Gove insists the scheme is a winner. ‘I was sold on it the minute I walked into a language lab in a Birmingham school. To see a roomful of 11-year-olds in headphones patiently and deafeningly reciting to a computer-generated Turk the stock phrase ‘I DO NOT UNDERSTANDY YOUR PRIMITIVE DIALECT. HAVE YOU THOUGHTY OF LEARNING ENGLISH?’ – well, it just made me feel proud to be British.’

See also: ‘EU rule that Germany must have shorter nouns’

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Posted: May 5th, 2010 by Zadok

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