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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rosetta stone and GCSEs

Following on from yesterday's post, I should say that I have not been overwhelmed by the GCSE course in foreign languages in general. The teachers know the languages and are enthusiastic. However, the students are very much taught to the test and at times, because of the requirements of the exam board, it has been choose something from column a and then b and then c. The exam board is changing the exam next year and hopefully this will help.
I also truly believe that children should learn another language (and that does not include American) unless for some reason they have difficulties with their own language and need remedial help. Learning a foreign language opens so many more worlds and ways to look at the world.

However, particularly after my eldest's AS level results in Russian, I did not feel confident. I gave in my son's request to get a Russian Rosetta Stone. He paid for it with his savings, so I suppose that I did not have a choice. But I had resisted for years, thinking that the school would provide a solid enough grounding. My son however was determined to properly learn the language and to get an A at A level. He decided that he needed help and that at worst, it would complement. So it was duly ordered and he started from the beginning.

Rosetta Stone in case you have not seen the magazine adverts is a computer programme which is geared towards the immersion principle. When you are learning the language, there is no other language involved -- just pictures. The programme also analyses the student's voice so the accent can be improved. It is fun. I did try a lesson or two in Russian and was surprised how quickly I could pick things up.

Anyway, within a few short weeks, my eldest's confidence with the language improved and he finds Russian much easier. There were just bits that somehow he missed. And it is probably more of a reflection on him than the teaching. In order to secure a predicted A, he went to the department and resat the test he had completely messed up. This time, he passed with flying colours. The department has predicted him an A and recently his teacher commented that he seemed far more secure with the language.
I was so impressed that my daughter was given the French version as part of her Christmas presents. Again she started from the beginning. Rapidly it became not review but learning things -- somehow she had completely missed the whole formal you bit and now knows the tenses much better. Her accent is improving as well. It is not that she was bad at the language. It was more that I felt something was slightly missing. Perhaps it was an underlying confidence. Teachers often do not have the time to discern the precise problem and it can be difficult to say -- is this student reaching her full potential.
I can remember thinking this when she was learning to read and working with her with a phonics programme, even though she was reading far beyond her age. I had thought she was just a good guesser... Her then teacher was amazed at suddenly how much more solid she seemed. So perhaps it is just the re enforcement. The physical act of doing if you will.

I also learnt that private tutoring is expensive and if you look at the Rosetta stone in relation to the cost of a good private tutor, it works out to be a less expensive option. The key is getting the children to use it. Luckily it means going on the computer and so this is an incentive, plus the confidence grows. My daughter who before Christmas was about to give up on French and accept whatever grade she received is now determined to get an A. Little and often...

My youngest wants to take Spanish at GCSE. Unfortunately the high school is dropping the Russian option due to lack of qualified teaching staff as some of the teachers are retiring, so eventually we will get another Rosetta Stone. After my experience, I have become convert to the programme.
And in case Donna or Sue are wondering -- yes I am working on my wip.
And my son felt his first resits went well. We shall see...Certainly the effort he put in has been far greater.


Anonymous said...

Dear Michell. A few years ago I entered a contest in a magazine and won! Unfortuntley it was not the first prize an all expenses holiday to Spain. I got the third prize - a "teach yourself Spanish" language course! It languishes in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. If you would like it let me know and I will post it off to you in the interests of re-cycling of course!
Regards Caroline

Biddy said...

I think confidence is the missing part of language teaching. Without it you struggle. I took French for the first time when I was 12 and because I excelled in writing and reading I was in the top group which had native speakers in it. Then GCSEs arrived... and everything was about oral and listening comprehension. My confidence dropped and I struggled, hating every moment. Still haven't quite figured out how I got a B but I've shied away from any foreign langauge since.

Michelle Styles said...

Caroline -- that is tremndously kind of you, but it is the Rosetta Stone course he will use. I tried other courses with my children and French and they did not really work. Rosetta Stone appears to work. Knock on wood.

Biddy -- I think it is the confidence. My daughter was struggling as French seems to come naturally for her friends. But she is far more confident now. She did point out that she got an A for her coursework which she did BEFORE she got the Rosetta Stone...but I have also seen what she doesn't know...

Donna Alward said...

I had a fabulous Spanish prof in Uni. I wish I'd taken a minor in it now, but there was no time or room in my coursework as I didn't take it until 3rd year and had requirements for my major and minors.

I would LOVE to know more languages. I used to be very proficient in french. But fifteen years of non-use and it's almost like I never learned at all. SIGH.

Sally said...

My son is really keen to learn Latin. He has progressed through an introductory course and is still very keen so your comments about Rosetta Stone are most encouraging.
Thank you