Motivation for learning a second foreign language low among Czech pupils

Around 60 percent of students reported no opportunity to use their secondary language with native speakers.


Written by ČTK Published on 23.11.2023 11:49:00 (updated on 23.11.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Student motivation for learning a second foreign language plummets after learning a first language, according to a new report by the Czech School Inspectorate (ČŠI). The survey queried thousands of pupils about their enthusiasm for learning another foreign language if such studies were not mandatory.

Three-fifths of foreign language teachers surveyed at elementary schools are in favor of the proposal to make a second foreign language non-compulsory. At Czech multi-year grammar schools, however, teachers lean towards maintaining the status quo, where a second foreign language is obligatory for students.

ČŠI representative Tomáš Zatloukal notes that the second foreign language is often taught similarly to the first, but the objectives differ between the two.

Foreign language proficiency enhances access to information, fosters global communication, and reduces educational inequalities. It's a priority for the Czech School Inspectorate, recognizing its role in fostering cultural understanding, and personal connections and broadening employment opportunities for graduates.

Czech School Inspectorate (ČŠI)

"The other aspect is that at the basic level A1, students acquire fundamental communication skills. They should be able to engage in conversations on familiar and often-repeated topics, and understand intelligible spoken words related to those topics," explained Zatloukal. He emphasized the need for teaching to shift away from an excessive focus on grammar and vocabulary.

The survey's results show that family background strongly affects success at learning a language. Pupils at grammar schools saw significantly higher scores than elementary schools. However, 23 percent of elementary pupils testing in English and 42 percent in French failed to meet minimum standards. Distance learning during Covid-19 has also impacted results, Zatloukal noted.

  • Czech students learn their first foreign language, typically English, in the first grade, while children from the age of 12 begin to learn a second foreign language.
  • Seventy-six percent of elementary school students and 92 percent of multi-year high school students said they would choose to learn English, even if they didn't have to. Most Czech students have English as their first foreign language.
  • Approximately 50 to 60 percent of pupils have not used another foreign language in a real environment and rarely if ever have the opportunity to communicate in this language with a native speaker.

The survey indicates that if given a choice, less than half of students would pick up another foreign language beyond the initially mandated one. The exception is English, appealing to 76 percent of elementary and 92 percent of grammar school pupils.

Students' low motivation stems from limited chances to use the language outside school, with 50-60 percent not engaging in real-world conversations in their second language. Zatloukal notes a lack of native speaker involvement in most second-language classes, exacerbating the issue.

School inspectors advised schools to consider varied goals between primary and additional foreign languages. A more targeted attitude development and life experience incorporation into classes could boost the secondary language drive for the future global citizens of the Czech Republic.

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