Denmark: Adding Spanish and Arabic as foreign languages

Secondary school students are doing poorly in their foreign language classes because they have only been able to take German in secondary school A new study has shown that at lack of interest and a lack of choice is resulting in poor performance in language classes at the nation's secondary schools, reported Berlingske Tidende newspaper Wednesday. Altough English is a mandatory course starting in primary school, the study, conducted by a national educational watchdog, indicated that 75 percent of the country's secondary schools offer only German as an optional foreign language. German, however, is considered old-fashioned by many of today's students, who expressed a preference for languages such as Spanish or Arabic. The group has recommended to Bertel Haarder, the education minister, that schools be required to offer students more than one foreign language in addition to English. The recommendation was lauded by the Danish Chamber of Commerce in a statement: 'What we hear from our members is that they don't need people who can speak a bit of three languages, but rather two languages fluently. Our wish list in terms of priorities are English, German, Spanish and Arabic.' German is still a big language within business, but students want other choices. Politicians are open to the proposal to stimulate more foreign language interest, but are less certain it could be implemented effectively. 'We'd like to help broaden students' language abilities,' said Henrik Larsen, chair of the children and culture committee of Local Government Denmark. 'There would be questions about funding, but it's certainly something we can discuss.' Christine Antorini, education spokesperson for the Social Democrats, agreed. She said the call for more Arabic benefits teens with roots in the Middle East. 'We could offer Spanish but we also have proposals to start teaching some of the more widespread languages in the Muslim world. Bilingual children can learn the other language better after they become proficient in Danish ,' she said. But Larsen said the proposal may not be logistically feasible. 'It can be a problem if there aren't enough students who take a certain subject. Then you have seven students for three different classes. Beyond that, I'm not even sure we can find qualified Spanish or Arabic teachers. We can't even find enough French teachers as it is.'

Source: Copenhagen Post (English)

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