Feminisation, masculinisation and the other: Re-evaluating the Language Learning Decline in England

Parrish, A. (2021) Feminisation, masculinisation and the other: Re-evaluating the Language Learning Decline in England. The Language Learning Journal. ISSN 1753-2167

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Modern Foreign Language (MFL) education has long been described as being ‘in crisis’ by virtue of a long decline in the numbers of students being entered for exams at age 16 and 18. Whilst this decline is generally attributed to policy, harsh grading and the rise of global English, this paper challenges this view by positioning the decline at the intersection of the feminising of the subject and an othering of the speakers of the languages taught. Using a loosely Foucauldian form of discourse analysis, academic literature, published reports on language needs and language teaching, and original qualitative data from two studies are drawn together. A feminising discourse around the subject of MFL is identified, juxtaposed with a masculinising discourse around education more generally, leading to the devaluing of the subject. Edward Said’s orientalism is explored as a framework for the discussion of the media and public ‘othering’ of the speakers of the languages commonly taught and the ‘fetishisation’ of less commonly taught languages. It is argued that overcoming the decline in uptake of modern foreign languages will require reconceptualising of the problem at policy level and a change in the media and public discourses surrounding the subject.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 Taylor and Francis. This is an author-produced version of a paper published in The Language Learning Journal. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.
Divisions: School of Teacher Development
Depositing User: Dr Abigail Parrish
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2021 09:33
Last Modified: 16 May 2023 02:40
URI: https://bgro.repository.guildhe.ac.uk/id/eprint/872

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