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20 October 2014
BBC SchoolsPrimary French Language Lab

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Modern Foreign Languages teaching in UK schools

Modern foreign languages (MFL) are not currently a compulsory part of the primary curriculum in England, although many schools introduce languages either as an extra-curricular club, or as an integral part of the timetable. Around a quarter of primary schools in England provide an opportunity to learn a foreign language, predominantly French. In Scotland, MFL are taught in all primary schools, and in Wales both English and Welsh have a place in the curriculum. In most other European countries, MFL are introduced much earlier than in the UK, and the Council of Europe has proposed that all primary children should learn at least one foreign language.

The British government is proposing an entitlement to MFL for all primary children, and the Primary French website materials will support this initiative. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) provides Schemes of Work for MFL in Key Stage 2 in England and Wales and, although non-statutory, these are used in many schools. Due to pressures on the primary curriculum, time for MFL is limited and teachers often use 'class time', (e.g. registration, celebrating birthdays) to reinforce phrases that have been learnt in a short MFL lesson.

It is generally agreed that children learning MFL should progress from listening to speaking to reading to writing, in that order. Their natural curiosity will then often lead to questions about how language works, why pronunciation differs, how French children behave, etc. Even parents who are not fluent French speakers can support their children's learning, consolidating or exploiting new language naturally - after all, they have usually taught their children English successfully!

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