Hawkins, Eric (ed.), 1996:

30 years of language teaching

London, UK: Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILTS). Pp. 424.
ISBN 1 874016 67 4 (paperback), £14.95

reviewed by

Hugh Dauncey

Department of French Studies, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU
E-mail: h.d.dauncey@ncl.ac.uk

[Download this review (8K, Rich Text Format)]

Copyright Notice:

First published in Web Journal of Modern Language Linguistics in association with the publishers (to be announced). © 1997 Hugh Dauncey.
The moral rights of the author(s) to be identified as author(s) of this work are asserted in accordance with §§.77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This work may be reproduced without the consent of the author, in part or in whole in any manner and in any medium subject only to the two following conditions:
(a) no charge shall be made for the copy containing the work or the excerpt,
(b) a copy of this notice shall precede the work or the excerpt.

Learning French and German in a North Wirral Grammar School in the mid-1970s I benefited from Longmans' Audio-Visual French Course ('répétez après le bip sonore') and Sprich mal Deutsch, whose exercises we followed on the school language laboratory. As I was leaving to go to study French at university, new Tandberg labs were added to the original wood and open-reel curiosity which had been, we were always told, only the second lab ever to be used in British secondary teaching. Our school's head start in using such new technology was of course, the result of our former headmaster Eric Hawkins' innovative vision of modern language teaching in the 1960s.

30 years of language teaching, edited by Professor Eric Hawkins covers the period 1966 - 1996, marking the 30th anniversary of the Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (CILT). In considering the ways in which the teaching of languages has evolved in Britain, this interesting collection of essays from twenty-five contributors also anticipates the challenges to be faced in teaching languages in an increasingly multilingual Britain. The book is divided into ten sections dealing with a wide range of issues and debates stretching from practical concerns of evolving curricula, developing pedagogy and the training of language teachers themselves, to fundamental principles of the role and place of language teaching in British society. Retrospective and prospective views are given are given in the three final sections.

In part 1) The national need for languages, Nigel Reeves, Jim Beale and Lore Arthur explain how language teaching is necessary for British business and as a element of adult education, while David Nott and James Coleman survey university courses for language specialists and non-specialists alike. Whereas Nott describes how modern languages courses have become more varied, both in terms of their content and in terms of the languages available (often with two languages studied together), Coleman reveals how the teaching of languages has been democratised in universities to include students not considered to be specialist linguists, learning languages in language centres or departments of Modern Languages as (the unfortunately named) SODs (specialists in other disciplines).

Parts 2) and 3) consider the implications of Britain's new multilingualism created by the use of over 180 mother tongues other than English in British schools and communities alongside the presence of Welsh and Scottish Gaelic, suggesting that the greater language awareness created by multilingualism can be an asset in language teaching at whatever level (see part 4) When to start ?). Parts 5) and 6) look at the linked issues of changing curricula and changing technologies in the classroom, including interesting discussions of how evolving formats of examinations from 'O' level to GCSE have shaped modern languages teaching and how ever more modern hardware from audio tape to video, IT and the Internet is constantly adding to the language learning experience, in tandem with intensive language teaching, contact with the foreign country and autonomous pupil learning. In section 7) evolving patterns of language teacher training are traced, identifying the move towards new partnerships between schools and training institutions, and developing structures of in-service training and support such as LEA advisors, the CBEVE and ALL are analysed.

In Sections 8) and 9), dealing with 30 years of research into language teaching, Richard Johnstone and John Trim summarise the lessons to be drawn from CILT's research register and from the modern languages projects of the Council of Europe: CILT's registers seem to show trends towards learner-centred research and the internationalisation of research projects in university departments of Education, Modern Languages, Applied Linguistics and in Language Centres, and the Council of Europe's role in fostering research into 'appropriate', 'desirable' and 'feasible' language learning and teaching is described in detail. The final chapter deals with 'Dreams and challenges' for language teaching in the next 30 years of CILT, foreseeing the integration of language awareness as a core element of the primary curriculum with continuing linguistic training and language teaching at all levels of secondary education and, at university level, specialist students with two and three languages as well as SODs with partial competence in a language, thanks to internationalised curricula.

All in all this is a very interesting collection of points of view, brought together under general headings which treat major concerns. If some minor repetition is unavoidable, this is more than compensated for by the additional presence of useful statistical and other appendices.

Return to The Issue 2 contents page | The WJMLL Home Page