Response to Hawkins (1999): Foreign Language Study and Language Awareness

This post is from a course that I took. I had to make blog posts for the course and I decided to move the posts over here when the course finished.

Hawkins, E. (1999). Foreign language study and language awareness. Language Awareness, 8(3 & 4), 124-142.

Hawkins was writing in the early days of the broadening of internet access. I think we thought we knew what globalization looked like back in 1999, but with the proliferation of the internet since then, the world has become noticeably smaller. These days, the rest of the world is at our fingertips and news from other countries comes to our attention (intentionally or unintentionally) on a regular basis.

That said, has language education — including views on language education — changed in accordance with this smaller, more globalized world? My guess, from reading about my classmates’ experiences here in the forum, is that there are still some vestiges of elitism (language classes only for those who elect to take them, or who are lucky enough to be offered them), and still some pockets of doubt as to the necessity of language learning in compulsory education.

My own opinion is in line with that of Hawkins. Language learning is not just about picking up a good skill, but it is a fundamental and necessary part of enhancing the cognitive development of our children and we should certainly be demanding it of our schools. Hawkins mentions the “trivium” (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and I agree that these three do need to play a part in the education system — with their influence apparent in all subjects, and enhanced in particular in language classes (both mother tongue and LOTE).

I agree with Hawkins’ idea that language learning should play a part in compulsory education and that it should serve as a basis for learning any other language in the future. I agree with Sarah that we can’t spend an inordinate amount of class time on the intricacies of linguistic theory (although I would LOVE to be able to do that — as I’m sure others in this class would), but we certainly do need to spend *some* class time talking about language as a concept and introducing metalinguistic concepts that can be applied to the learning of other languages.

Questions from the Study Guide

Should LOTE be compulsory from Year X to Year Z?
Yes. I believe that LOTE should be compulsory in all grades until at least the last two years of high school (when students start having more independence in their choice of subjects).

What are the benefits of LOTE learning?
Learning another language allows you to communicate with the people who speak that language and gain a deeper understanding of the culture of that linguistic group. It can offer an economic advantage in opening up job prospects. It can open up one’s mind to different ways of thinking, and it can help in learning other languages. There is an appealing recursiveness to the benefits of language learning, in that learning an additional language can help one to learn more languages, and to develop a deeper understanding of languages that one has already acquired.