Languages at St Nicolas
The practical benefits of speaking another language are obvious:
- broadens horizons by leading to further study or opening up future career possibilities in another country;
- lays the foundations for learning additional languages;
- and even reinforces and expands children’s knowledge and understanding of their own language through learning the structure of another.
However, there are plenty of other less apparent but far-reaching pluses to be found in language-learning. It opens up the children’s minds to other cultures, and the fact that the world is full of similarities and differences to be discovered. They can learn to look at things from another’s perspective and recognise the importance of tolerance and understanding. And it helps children to understand what it is to be a global citizen, crucial in our increasingly interconnected world.
Languages is the newest subject in the Primary National Curriculum, having been statutory for Key Stage 2 since 2014. However, at St Nics, we teach Language from halfway through Reception year. This gives a head-start in Key Stage 2 in developing the right attitude and frame of mind for languages. It makes good sense, as it is widely recognised that there is no advantage to being more mature when it comes to language-learning; in fact, it just gets more challenging, so the earlier the better is the key philosophy!
Language-learning is delivered through the three core strands of:
- Oracy (through songs, rhymes, games, stories, simple conversations, expressing opinions, as well as questioning and answering);
- Literacy (the build-up of the children’s reading and writing skills in French); and
- Intercultural Understanding (the children learn about people, cultures and traditions from French-speaking countries. Where possible, this is linked to other areas of the curriculum or to their day-to-day lives).
We understand that some children feel unconfident about speaking another language, or may question the need to learn one. This, in part, stems from the fact that it has been a statutory part of the Primary National Curriculum for less than 10 years, so is a subject that many parents may not have learned at this age themselves. And, of course, when so many other countries speak English as a second language, it may be tempting for some children to imagine there’s little need for them to speak anything else!
So, in addition to the Languages lesson that the children receive each week, we will be building up further opportunities to increase their exposure to French, such as registration and classroom instructions in French, and the labelling of locations around the school in French.
The inclusion of language-learning is a vital ingredient of a 21st century broad and balanced curriculum. In 2014, over 80% of primary children in the European Union were learning a second language; this does not include the UK, which before that year had not included Languages as a statutory subject. It’s heartening to see that our children now have this same advantage as their European counterparts, with the chance to become adults with the ability to adapt and succeed in a diverse, evolving global society
‘For today’s young people, languages matter; they are an investment that can enrich their lives socially, culturally and economically’ (Languages Review, Dearing and King, 2006)