About 80% of UK
primary schools that currently teach any foreign language
Should you look at teaching more than one language in primary school?
Which are Europe's most-talked languages?
( based on a contribution by Graham Davies to LinguanetForum, 25 August 2006)
Which iwestern European language gives you most people to speak to?
A survey in 2005 of languages spoken by people in the European Union (EU) + candidate coountries (Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey) asked EU citizens which language they spoke as their Mother Tongue (MT) and first Foreign Language (FL).
The figures for the main languages are:
English: 51% (MT 13%, FL 38%)
German: 32% (MT 18%, FL 14%)
French: 25% (MT 12%, FL 13%)
Italian: 16% (MT 13%, FL 3%)
Spanish: 15% (MT 9%, FL 6%)
This Eurobarometer survey was published in February 2006.
Overall English is spoken almost everywhere in the countries surveyed - generally by younger, better educated people.
There are more German MT speakers, followed by English and Italian speakers. Italian speakers are concentrated in and around Italy, while German speakers are spread more widely.
Studying languages at school
Overall, 77% of European citizens considered that children should learn English as their first FL. Only the UK, Ireland (64%) and Luxembourg (8%) considered French to be the first FL that children should learn.
When asked which two FLs UK children should learn at school, UK citizens answered:
German came higher in most other European countries and French and Spanish came lower.
Europe's most-talked languages
The case for language diversification
What are your
primary school objectives?
The willingness and ability to acquire languages and openness to other cultures will open the door to participating in this world.
Primary school can prepare children by giving them confidence that they CAN learn languages, they CAN communicate with people from other cultures. It can offer them a view of the diversity of the world, before they accept and absorb national stereotypes.
Should you teach
the same MFL as your secondary
Learning a little of a foreign language and being introduced to other cultures at primary school is worthwhile in itself. It's part of establishing an awareness of the rest of the world and its diversity and richness. A successful early experience in learning any foreign language develops useful confidence and skills that are transferable to picking up other languages in later life.
The range of languages taught in UK secondary schools is sadly diminishing - but it is worth checking what languages are offered by those serving your school's catchment area. But why do we often assume that children need to study just one language throughout their school career? The best gift you can offer your children is the knowledge that they CAN succeed at communicating in a foreign language - give them the taste for it, and maybe they won't go through life thinking that it's all too difficult...
It is also important to ensure that, when children move up to their next school, they are not demotivated by having to start at the beginning and repeat material they have covered already. That is why Early Start Languages welcomes the government initiative to encourage and help finance Language Colleges and other secondary schools to form partnerships with their local feeder schools. Our video-packs offer primary schools their own appropriate course materials with a different cross-curricular approach to secondary school textbooks - you can use it with confidence.
Secondary MFL teachers need to be aware of what MFL work their pupils have done before, and to be confident to take it into account and build on it. If liaison is not initiated by the secondary school, then a good primary school should make efforts in that direction.
Primary MFL experience should aim first at building confidence, then at encouraging awareness of other languages and cultures, and at fostering transferable language-learning skills. This will be a life-long activity - it will not stop when they leave school.
So let's forget the idea that you teach PMFL simply to get children better grades in GCSE or A-levels. Whatever language you teach, it will be worthwhile to children if it broadens their horizons and helps them learn more later.
you teach just ONE language at primary
Makes language learning fun Gives pupils an understanding of how to learn
different languages. Instead of studying just one
language, pupils experience the basics of the
basics of up to six languages, and this may include
Latin Develops listening skills and stimulates
communication Can be delivered flexibly in school, enhancing
cross-curricular links Promotes cultural and linguistic diversity Does not need specialist teachers. Eases the transition to secondary schools
Makes language learning fun
Gives pupils an understanding of how to learn different languages. Instead of studying just one language, pupils experience the basics of the basics of up to six languages, and this may include Latin
Develops listening skills and stimulates communication
Can be delivered flexibly in school, enhancing cross-curricular links
Promotes cultural and linguistic diversity
Does not need specialist teachers.
Eases the transition to secondary schools
Are some languages
easier for beginners?
Don't they all
Links across the
leisure opportunities to speak (and listen to) other
Your class may well know the names of several European football teams - there could be a French-, German, or Spanish-speaking player in your local team...
Business links with
your local community?
Check out your local supermarkets and shopping centres for goods from Europe....
Specialist school travel firms do offer attractively-priced packages for trips between France, Germany, Spain and UK.
teaching other languages:
[the equivalent of the British Council] supports
German teaching with courses, materials through its centres
in London, Manchester, York, Belfast and Dublin. There are
regular day-courses for primary teachers, and an annual
residential course in Stauffen [where our video-pack
"3-2-1 LOS!' was recorded].
The Spanish Embassy Education Office offers a series of services, publications, courses and resources in support of Spanish teaching through its three resource centres, in Belfast, Edinburgh and London. An annual residential "language-and-culture" course for primary and secondary teachers is held in Pamplona.
For further information
contact the Spanish Embassy Education Office on