Aim to keep foreign languages alive

Thursday 6 March 2003

The University of St Andrews is spearheading a campaign to counter the decline in the study of foreign languages at secondary school level, following their removal from the post-14 compulsory core curriculum.

The University’s Department of German is organising a series of initiativ

es aimed at maintaining interest in the subject at schools, something which they believe is under threat due to competition from other ‘new’ social subjects such as Psychology.

Professor Helen Chambers, Chair of the Department of German, said:

“Language learning in schools is under threat from government policy which has removed foreign languages from the post-14 compulsory core curriculum. It also has to compete with an array of ‘new’ subjects, such as psychology, economics and media studies, when pupils make their choices for Standard Grade and Higher.

“There is no doubt that studying one or more foreign languages is a key to new worlds of experience and to a wide range of career opportunities and that a proper recognition of this is vital to the realisation of the Scottish Executive’s vision of a ‘smart successful Scotland.

“At the University of St Andrews, our aim is to increase awareness of the fact that studying languages is fun as well as a challenge,” she said.

Professor Chambers, the first woman Professor of German in Scotland, believes that British children are inferior speakers of foreign languages compared to their European counterparts. She also believes that the content of language teaching could be more diverse and stimulating, as similar content is used in schools for the study of all foreign languages.

In particular, she feels that as a language, German is not seen as a ”cool” option for young people to study.

“Germany suffers from a perception problem, and the problem is trying to reverse that stereotype,” she said.

Furthermore, to encourage youngsters to consider studying languages at University, she believes that better outreach programmes are required.

Next week (Wednesday 12th March), as part of an initiative by the Department to stimulate and encourage interest in German at a local level, students will perform a free play for Fife school pupils. The group, a mixture of native German speakers and students of German, will perform the play ‘Der Besuch der alten Dame’ a tragic comedy by Friedrich Duerrenmatt. The play is aimed at pupils of German at Higher level. In this lively, modern production this tale of greed, sex and betrayal is dark comedy for our times.

In June, the Department will play host to school pupils from all over Scotland in its first annual recitation contest. The German Competition for Schools in Scotland on 18th June is aimed at pupils studying German at all levels, and will involve a series of readings, recitations and role- playing in which performers will be judged on pronunciation, fluency, expressiveness, acting skills and originality.

“The German play performance for schools this month and the German Competition for Schools in Scotland in June are just two demonstrations of what we are trying to do to increase interest in languages amongst school pupils,” said Professor Chambers.

**** The free performance of ‘Der Besuch der alten Dame’ by Friedrich Duerrenmatt, will be performed at 2pm on Wednesday 12th March in the Buchanan lecture theatre, Union St, St Andrews. Admission is free and places are still available – interested schools should contact Lynne Dalrymple at the University’s School of Modern Languages for further details on 01334 463647.

Members of the public can see the play this week at the Crawford Arts Centre – the last performance is on Friday 7th March at 7pm. Profits from this week’s performances are being donated to the children’s hospice, Rachel House. Please call the Crawford on 01334 474610 for ticket availability and prices.




Issued by Beattie Media On behalf of the University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook on 01334 467227, mobile 07900 050103, or email [email protected] Ref: German play for schools natpr050303 View the latest University news at

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