Call to teach second language in Scots schools from P1

Foreign language teacher and pupils Under the plans children could start learning a second language as young as five

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A new report has said children in Scotland should begin learning a second language as soon as they start school.

The study, commissioned by the Scottish government, called for a "radical change of approach" in language learning.

The proposals put forward would see all children learning a second language from primary one, rather than primary six when most children currently start.

The plans are likely to be piloted in a dozen schools across Scotland.

Start Quote

The world is changing rapidly and radically”

End Quote Alasdair Allan Minister for Learning
'Multi-lingual world'

The recommendations - made by the government's Modern Languages Working Group - also suggest that children should learn a third language no later than P5.

To increase its support for language learning, Scotland's National Centre for Languages (SCILT) is to receive increased funding totalling more than £600,000 in 2012-2013.

The minister for learning, Alasdair Allan said: "The world is changing rapidly and radically and the government has a duty to ensure that Scottish schools prepare young people so they can flourish and succeed in the globalised, multi-lingual world we now live in.

"One indisputable aspect of modern life is that more people travel widely for jobs and leisure and we must respond accordingly; we will not be as successful as a country and economy if we remain essentially a mono-lingual society."

Ministers have signed a voluntary EU agreement to make the changes outlined in the report.

However, the full proposals are as yet un-costed and could face hurdles because of the high costs associated with training language teachers.

Lloyd Anderson, director of British Council Scotland, welcomed the report.

He said: "Scotland needs globalised citizens who can go out confidently on the world stage and win business to grow Scotland's exports.

"Language learning is a vital part of creating that outward-looking mindset."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Coming from Shetland I hate the Scottish Education Curriculum. We are forced to learn irrelevant languages like French or German when in truth we should be learning Norwegian which IS of more relevance to our history and culture.

    Unfortunately, this goes against the "one size fits all" and politically correct attitude(French/German) of the Scottish Education System so it will never happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    May can barely learn English to a decent standard

    I would focus any resources on English

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    49.U14387418 - They should be made to learn Gaelic - the real language of Scotland. ]

    Not everyone wants to learn Gaelic, and I personally am happy that I learned modern European languages. Gaelic is not a traditional langauage in the part of Scotland I am from, so why should I be forced to learn a foreign language I have no interest in?

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I agree with the principle, there is a lot of research linking this to enhanced cognitive ability. I hope that Spanish rather than French or German is prime choice so there is more chance of the second language being useful. Figures below are a few years out of date but are indicative:
    English 1.5 billion speakers world-wide
    Spanish 500 Million
    German 180 million
    French 200 Million

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    I did French for 5 years at high school, achieved a Higher B grade... and could still barely speak the language. I suppose part of the problem was that we started too late, I didn't start learning French 'til I was about 11. We also learned little in the way of practical French, and the teaching method was quite sterile. A lot of improvement is needed, why we can't just copy the European method?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Pity is in this country that never mind English being spoken incorrectly
    by children,it is massacred by BBC newspeople daily.Sin instead of
    seen;bin instead of been,etc.The letter T also appears missing from most peoples' alphabet notably people from "darne sarf" that
    appaling "soap" eastenders.
    Expecting lots of boos.
    The sooner a foreigh language is taught,the better for children

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    I started learning French in primary school, in 1960s Glasgow. I found out later it was an experiment, and we were all tracked through our education. As a group, we all went on to study languages longer and at a higher level than children who were not part of the experiment. I now speak 3 languages, and have a passing acquaintance with 2 ohers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    English only speakers feel inferior; not only do they know only one language but, that language is a mongrel that lacks the heritage belonging to every other language, in particularly Celtic ones - some of the oldest in Europe. Britain is what's dead and so is Ingerland. That's their problem. Celtic culture and languages survive despite them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    As someone who speaks three languages, I'd say early learning is all well and good but it's a waste of time and money unless children then use the second language on every day basis.

    Buy your kid movies and good books in the language in question, find a conversation club with native speakers. Send him to the that country for holidays to make friends and chat with them later on facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I thought all Scots already spoke a foreign language?

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Get them to learn an extra language - it hardly matters which one. It's the flexibility of the brain which is so important.

    Teaching English more formally is also useful - they don't need the more complex grammar, but knowing the difference between a noun and a verb would be a good start. Though I know that teachers bitterly resent having to learn this much!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Folk say they don't want their kids learning Gaelic because it's a "dead language"

    Yet the only blog the BBC have in Scotland is in Gaelic

    I wonder if BBC Scotland also think it's a "dead language" ??

    I heard a Gaelic response posted on Brian Taylors blog (long ago) was removed because it was in a foreign language!

    I don't speak Gaelic or I might be tempted to test it here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    " We call it l'eau" said the French lady

    And in German we say 'Wasser'' said Helga from Berlin

    " Agua is our Spanish word, " added Concita

    The English lady exclaimed triumphantly "We call it water, and not only do we call it water, it IS water!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Language teaching and learning in Scotland owe the decline to careerist teachers who invented daft new teaching methods to replace the tried and tested ways.
    The careerists prospered personally, but they killed the subject.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Speaking a second language improves cognitive function across the board and is probably one of the most effective forms of 'brain training' available see New Scientist 5 May 2012 for research findings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Thirty years from now will go into a pub in the middle of Fife and the locals will start speaking Gaelic.
    And I'll think am in LLandudno.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.



    We should trade teachers with other countries so that everyone teaches their native language.

    I wouldn't want my child's view of history thwarted by someone say from China!


  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    We should trade teachers with other countries so that everyone teaches their native language.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    They should be made to learn Gaelic - the real language of Scotland. Still typically colonial, the English feel threatened by a native language. In Wales, they say they don't need to learn Welsh, don't bother and opt for French or other. Years down the line, they moan that they can't get jobs that ask for bilingual speakers, here. They had the opportunity and wasted it - It's laughable!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I agree that all children should have a second and even 3rd language, I done both French and Spanish at high school and remember nothing, had I been taught this from a young age like multiplications and subtractions, I beleive I would have retained languages. All children can benefit from this whether their parents agree or not, why hold a child back from what could be a promising future


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