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Showing posts from August, 2013

BBC Knowledge and Learning

I was interested to learn that the BBC is in the progress of re-organising all its educational content into a single website. Although, for financial reasons, they have produced no new modern language material in recent times, they have been organising their considerable archive matreial into easy to search clips. Previously this was called the Learning Zone, but this seems to be evolving into Knowledge and Learning.

Their thinking is explained here.

The French beta site is here.

They state that their aim is to "make the Knowledge and Learning Online feel like a single, unified place where users can learn more about science, nature, history, religion, arts and more."  To achieve this they say they will use a "web design technique called responsive web design, a way of enabling new content to adapt instantly to whatever device type or screen size it's being displayed on, smoothly reconfiguring and slimming itself down so it works optimally on tablets and mobiles as …

United et City pour les francophones

De très bonnes initiatives de marketing de certains grands clubs de la première ligue qui affichent leurs sites web en versions multi-lingues, y compris, dans certains cas, français. Chapeau aux deux clubs de Manchester, United et City, qui offrent de véritables versions françaises. D'après ce que je peux constater, ce n'est pas simplement une traduction automatique qu'on trouve sur ces deux sites car le français se lit plutôt bien, même si je ne suis pas sûr de l'usage du verbe blâmer dans un des titres de l'actualité des Citizens!

Chelsea FC propose son site en diverses langues, mais pas en français. Les fans francophones des Blues ont leur site à eux Chelsea Foot. Quant à Liverpool, ils ont des sites indonésiens et thailandais, mais pas français. Leurs fans francophones ont Liverpool France.

J'ai été quelque peu surpris de constater qu'Arsenal n'a pas de véritable site français; leurs supporte…

Why don't more teachers engage with social media for work?

I used to be Twitter-sceptic, but now I find myself addicted. I also engage with fellow teachers on forums and groups such as TES Connect, Mflresources and Linguanet. I even used to join in with these groups before I had a vested interest in publicising my website! Yet the large majority of language teachers do not choose to engage with colleagues via these means. Take Twitter, for example. The MFLtwitterati group number in the hundreds, but this is a small fraction of the total number of language teachers working in the UK and elsewhere. Why don't more teachers engage with the social media for their work?

I sometimes read "all teachers should join Twitter". Well.... I don't agree. For starters, there are other ways of engaging with colleagues in one's own school and in other schools, even though the coverage is bound to be more limited. In addition, most teachers are already extremely pressed for time with preparation, marking, teaching and meetings, and would l…

GCSE French - the Ebacc effect

Much was made in the media about the rise in entries for modern languages in the 2013 GCSE exams. There is no doubt that the Gove Ebacc accountability measure has started to take effect. Entries for languages, history and geography all rose this year, which is good news for those subjects (but presumably bad news for others). Spanish saw the most significant rise, cementing its position as rising star, having held its own at A-level too. Tom Bennett amusingly states in today's TES that MFL has gone from being the Giles Brandreth to Rihanna in the school curriculum.

It's too soon to say whether this reverse of a trend is the start of something greater. It will take more than the Ebacc to achieve that, plus who knows which accountability measure will take priority for schools in the future - Ebacc or the general measure of performance across eight subjects? If schools prioritise the latter, then MFL could continue its previous decline.

And let's be clear: this year's ent…

A-level French results 1993-2014

Here are grades and entry numbers for A-level French from 1993 to 2014.

Source: and JCQ figures for 2014.

French entries A* A B C D E N U A - E Entries  2014 6.6 31.0 10433 2013 6.5 32.0 30.3 17.9 9.1 3.4 0.8 99.2 11272 2012 6.8 32.6 29.4 18.5 8.8 3.1 0.8 99.2 12511 2011 7.7 32.4 29.3 18.0 8.7 3.0 0.9 99.1 13196 2010 7.7 31.4 28.5 18.2 9.6 3.7 0.9 99.1 13850 2009 38.6 27.6 18.3 10.5 4.1 0.9 99.1 14333 2008 37.3 27.7 18.9 10.6 4.3 1.2 98.8 14885 2007 36.3 28.0 18.2 11.6 4.6 1.3 98.7 14477 2006 34.7 27.4 19.5 11.8 5.3 1.3 98.7 14650 2005 32.9 27.5 20.0 12.4 5.6 1.6 98.4 14484 2004 33.4 26.8…

Listening activities on

(Updated 8th September) When I did my recent Surveymonkey survey of users, a number of subscribers said they would like to see listening activities on the site. I had been thinking about this for a while too and I have now begun to incorporate listening resources, mainly at A-level to begin with, but with a few for GCSE too.

Finding the right material online takes care, because you need source material which is interesting, spoken clearly at a reasonable pace and, preferably, which works well with exam board topics. I cannot embed copyright material, so my worksheets link to external video sites which the teacher could play "from the front" or which students could access themselves at home, in the ICT room or on a tablet. Some worksheets incorporate oral activities (pré-écoute) and other linguistic tasks.

If I were using them I would present them from the front as part of a teaching sequence. They could also make excellent listening revision material, which…

Falling modern language entries at A-level

This is an update of a previous blog following yet another year of decline in A-level modern language entries....

Once again in 2013 the number of students taking A-level languages has declined overall, with only Spanish seriously bucking the trend by holding its own. In The Independent today Andrew Hall, head of AQA, denied that languages are harder than other subjects. If he is well informed, he knows better than this. But severe grading of languages is only part of the problem.

In 1993 nearly 30,000 students entered for A-level French. In 2012 the figure was just over 12,500. Just compare with a few other common A-level subjects (I am grateful to Brian Stubbs for these figures, which I have rounded up or down - apologies for formatting):


Maths                   66,000                         86,000
History                 46,000                         52,000
Geography           46,000                         32,000
Physics                38,000                     …

Loss of AS levels in their current form would be bad for languages

 ... and all other subjects for that matter.
Back around 2000, when the last major reform of A-levels took place, there was a battle between those who wanted a broader post 16 curriculum and those who wished to maintain the "gold standard" of three A-levels. The second group feared that broadening the curriculum would entail a watering down of subject content and produce students less prepared for university courses.
The "gold standard" folk won the day, if not the argument. We ended up with a dog's breakfast of four. AS levels in lower sixth and three A2s in upper sixth (apart from a minority of students who take four A2s). This is still, by international standards, a remarkably narrow curriculum.
At least it meant that more students would be tempted to continue doing a language for a year after GCSE and, indeed, this is what happened, even if the numbers continuing to complete a full A-level courses continued to dwindle.
Michael Gove's reform of A-levels, mak…

Journal télévisé - A-level oral task

This group discussion task can take a little time in preparation and filming, but classes find it memorable and enjoyable.

Vous faites partie d’un comité de rédaction qui prépare le journal télévisé de ce soir.  Dans votre bureau vous recevez sur votre écran d’ordinateur les informations ci-dessous.  C’est à vous de choisir dans quel ordre et sous quelle forme vous allez les présenter.  Discutez entre vous les mérites de chaque information.
Ensuite vous pourrez préparer votre propre journal qui sera filmé.
•Un bateau pétrolier échoue au large de Brest.  1000 tonnes de pétrole ont été déversées dans l’océan Atlantique. Il y a de forts risques de pollution sur les plages bretonnes.
•Dans la finale de la Ligue des Champions l’Olympique Lyonnais remporte la victoire face au Réal de Madrid 2 à 0.
•La Banque Européenne a décidé de baisser le taux d’intérêt de 1% avec pour objectif de réduire le chômage dans l’UE.
•12 personnes tuées et 10 blessés dans un carambolage sur l’A26 près de Rheims.  Le …