Professor of Hispanic Studies, The University of Manchester
Thanks to Steve and Yaron for this powerful analysis and proposal for long-term change. There’ll be many wanting to take part in the debate started here, not least those (many) who have already designed transnationally focused courses which do effectively undo the various processes of hierarchisation spoken about in the piece. We certainly will need more such courses.
The piece’s attention to schools caught my eye on this occasion. I hope that those with recent experience of changes to the (“European”) MFL specifications at A level can help us break the damaging feedback loop whereby tribalism can beget tribalism. Teachers are trained mostly in the “compartmentalised, nation-state based approach to the organisation of Modern Languages”, indeed; they go on to develop in their students a strong affiliation to one, or maybe two nations and their official languages; they strategically co-opt their students into, at best, twinned monolinguaphilias. Those students then come to their university languages courses with misplaced and myopic loyalties, and to please them and attract them in, lecturers and language tutors big up, again strategically, the chic or useful qualities of certain languages (and their staff, and the areas in which they are spoken) over others. Some of this tribe of students might go on to be teachers, usually in thrall to one language and reluctantly teaching another. And so on back. Some of the new topics for integration with A level MFL-learning have an outward looking potential that might well be harnessed in breaking the loop; not many of the cultural and historical texts do, and we may have just already missed a chance for installing one crucial element in the radical reform that is needed.