Saturday, 16 June 2007

Are you Ready for PMFL?-Case Studies

Headteacher Update presents some cases of good practice for pmfl

Case Study: Special Events
One headteacher in a large primary school in the North West of England has turned his school into a place where languages are part of the everyday life of the school. His own passion for foreign languages and in particular for French has filtered down through the school. Children, teachers, teaching assistants and parents are all extremely enthusiastic about language learning and the benefits it brings. Although staff expertise ranges widely from fluent speakers to complete beginners, all members of staff have been involved in a CPD programme for French, where they learn about primary methodology and have the opportunity to improve their language skills if needed.
By celebrating all languages with high profile events such as the European Day of Languages, this headteacher has managed to bring everybody in the school community on board, with a shared vision of a rich, multi-lingual learning environment.

Case study: Topics delivered in MFL
In one Southwark school, a class teacher with fluent French and experience of teaching MFL in secondary schools team-teaches language lessons with the other class teachers in key stage 2. They also plan together for cross-curricular opportunities; for example, a Year 6 project on Plants and Flowers lent itself very well to work in French as well as English.

Case Study: Experts teach class teachers
Ten primary schools are involved in a primary languages project launched by a specialist language college in County Durham in 2003.
In 2004-5, the lead teacher switched to work with Year 3 in order to progress through KS2, in line with the framework. The specialist primary languages teacher visits the ten schools currently involved in the project every fortnight and the class teacher observes the specialist teacher deliver a 30-minute lesson. The specialist teacher provides the class teacher with a detailed lesson plan for them to refer to during the lesson.
The project works on the coaching model, so the class teacher then replicates the lesson before the next visit by the specialist teacher. There’s a wide range of training needs among the different teachers, with some class teachers requiring more support than others. In a programme such as this, class teacher commitment is essential if the model is to be both successful and sustainable. Close collaboration between the specialist teacher and class teacher is also vital and time must be put aside for this to happen.

Case Study: A language a month in East End school
One inner-city school in East London, with a rich ethnic mix, has opted for a multi-lingual approach, with an emphasis on developing generic literacy skills, language awareness and intercultural understanding. Rather than learning one language from Year 3 to Year 6, a different language is looked at each month. Children are encouraged to make connections between the language and English, as well as drawing comparisons with their home language. The key stage 2 framework is flexible enough to be used with this model, although there are clear implications for the kind of outcome expected in Year 6 in terms of language proficiency, compared with children who have studied the same language for four years.

Are you ready for PMFL?

As a secondary specialist, I can still appreciate how daunting a development like PMFL must be.
In its June 2007 issue, The Headteacher Update, a magazine circulated to all UK primary school headteachers, includes some tips from Helen Groothues, Primary Language Teaching Advisor from CILT, The National Centre for Languages. This makes interesting reading as it presents different ways to integrate languages in the curriculum taking into account the uniqueness of the primary school context.

By 2010, all children in key stage 2 must have the opportunity to learn a foreign language. According to Helen Groothues, every English primary can create its own model for delivery. “Learning a foreign language motivates children, helps them develop general oracy and literacy skills and to grow in confidence as learners, as well as broadening intercultural understanding, ensuring an international dimension in learning and developing understanding across the curriculum.

Primary language teaching is inclusive of all learners, and can benefit learners with special educational needs and learners for whom English is an additional language, as well as children who have newly arrived in England.

While some 70% of primary schools in England are planning for delivery or are already teaching primary languages, according to a recent Headspace survey, headteachers play a vital role in establishing a clear rationale, vision and strategy for primary languages.”

There is a great deal of flexibility in terms of planning and delivery, which means that each school can create their own ‘best-fit’ model. Planning for and delivering primary languages must be seen as a step-by-step learning process for all, and collaboration between schools (both primary and secondary), local authorities and key agencies is surely the recipe for success.
Other recommendations include:
Ø Conduct a school languages audit
Ø Contact your Local Authority advisor
Ø Appoint a subject co-ordinator for primary languages (PL)
Ø Find out about your closest NACELL Regional Support Group
Ø Make links with local secondary schools and Specialist Language Colleges
Ø Visit the NACELL website at
Ø Contact the NACELL advice desk at with any further questions
Ø Explore the possibility of taking on a PGCE student with a language specialism
Ø Once a language has been decided on, organise a senior management team meeting to discuss possible curricular models
Ø When appropriate, organise a meeting for all staff to launch primary languages

A school languages audit is a very useful way of identifying expertise and capacity within the school, not only among staff, but also among parents, children and the wider school community. It also shows that the school values languages other than English and raises awareness of the different languages spoken in the school community.

The audit will help inform the decision on which language to teach and can also feed into the School Improvement Plan in terms of future planning and training needs.

Other factors that might influence your choice of language are:

_ Contacts with the country or countries where the language is spoken
_ The languages which are taught in neighbouring primary and secondary schools
_ The availability of specialist support in Local Authorities, Specialist Language Colleges and other secondary schools and from other sources, including native speakers
_ The writing system of a particular language
_ The expectations and ambitions of parents and pupils
_ The language policies of the Local Authority
_ The capacity to sustain and resource the teaching of a particular language across Years 3 to 6. (Part 2, Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages, DFES 2005)

The Framework recommends that schools plan for at least 60 minutes of language provision per week. However, there are many ways of planning for this. Primary teachers are in the ideal position of being able to embed the new language into daily classroom routines, as well as integrating the language into other subjects across the curriculum. Children can use language for real purposes as well as learning language incidentally through activities combined with other subjects.

This does not mean, however, that there is no place for designated language lessons, but that provision of language teaching does not have to be planned exclusively through such sessions. Schools could, for example, plan language input in 20 minute sessions, three times a week and then supplement this with ‘planned incidental’ language, for example when greeting the class at the beginning and end of the day, when taking the register, when moving from one activity to the next. Mental maths activities can be very effective when conducted in the language, as can warm-up sessions for P.E. Intercultural Understanding (one of the three main ‘strands’ of the Framework objectives) can be taught very well through topics where it is combined with, for example, geography or history.

Friday, 15 June 2007

The EC Promotes the Link Between Multilinguism and Competitiveness

The 'newest' European commissioner, Romanian multilingualism chief Leonard Orban, says multilingualism benefits competitiveness and announces the September launch of a languages Business Forum.

Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban explains that he is very keen to stress the importance of multilingualism for business: "It is one of the main dimensions - my priorities concerning multilingualism in general, not only on the institutional level, are linked...immediately after I started my work, a study was published – a study drafted by the UK National Centre for Languages – and this clearly demonstrated that the companies who do not have the necessary linguistic skills are losing money and losing business. So it is a very clear conclusion here – the companies need linguistic skills and need linguistic strategies."

"Very soon, I will launch a Business Forum concerning the link between multilingualism and competitiveness," says the commissioner.
The Business Forum is intended, among other objectives, to provide input for Orban's new languages strategy, which is expected to be adopted in the second half of 2008. However, the commissioner is unsure whether languages will feature highly in Commissioner Margot Wallström's Communication Action Plan, due to be presented on 4 July.

"Of course," he adds, "language learning is a key priority for me. The cultural aspect of languages and mainly the contribution of multilingualism to inter-cultural dialogue –and last but not least, creating a space for communicating with EU citizens."

From a translation perspective, Orban is convinced that, with the number of official languages having increased from 11 to 23 since 2005, practical measures are essential to ensure that languages are as far as possible kept on an equal footing - "the executive decided to divide documents into two categories - the important (and all important documents should be translated into all the official languages) – and less important documents," Orban explains.

Finally, the commissioner addresses multilingualism and education: "I recently visited the UK, especially for this reason, because now the UK authorities are working on some very concrete proposals concerning the educational system, but also concerning language learning. I went there to encourage them to find the best solution. I also went there to discuss the concrete terms of their proposals. Do you know what the most difficult issue in the UK is? Finding the motivation to learn foreign languages”

EU official documents

Commission: Communication on Multilingualism

Press articles

EurActiv: Young Europeans' language skills under scrutiny

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Newsround: Languages get support from Business Leaders in Scotland

The Scotsman, June 12, 2007
Business leaders speak out for better language lessons

According to Gareth Rose, Education Reporter, business leaders are pressing for more youngsters to learn languages in schools to help them compete in the global marketplace.

As fewer pupils now learn a foreign language than ten years ago, Edinburgh's Chamber of Commerce is set to push for a target of all pupils leaving school with at least one foreign language in curriculum meetings it holds with the local authority and headteachers.

The Chamber of Commerce wants to see a change in the kinds of languages being taught, as it believes Mandarin, Hindi and Eastern European languages are now more useful in the workplace.

Currently, French remains the most common language- being taught in 98 primary and 23 secondary schools - followed by German, Spanish and Italian.

The Chamber of Commerce is also in favour of an earlier start with languages "Secondary school is too late, the best time is when children are six and seven because kids that age are like sponges soaking up information."

Mr Bell wants to see schools consider teaching languages spoken in new EU member states where there are business opportunities due to cheaper labour and overheads, and where many people do not speak English. "I would like to see every child leave school with at least one foreign language."

Although this is commendable, key issues such as staffing and training must be considered. The promotion of a specific language as more “useful” also does not consider the fact that the acquisition of generic language-learning skills should be the priority. Language-learning is a long-term investment and demand for specific languages does evolve with time-what is needed now might not be by the time a child completes their education.

Roger Horam, head of projects and partnerships at the chamber, is one of the key figures in the education policy group, which liaises with the city council over which subjects should be taught in schools to give children the best chance of finding work.

Mr Horam said: "We've been concentrating on Curriculum for Excellence initiatives, getting more vocational training in schools. Languages have suffered as a result and we have not lobbied nearly as much as we should have done. But it is certainly something we will be taking up with the council at future meetings."

What puzzles me is that languages are always opposed to vocational studies, when they are such a strong asset in so many careers. Are we just aiming to train professional linguists?

Newsround: Languages and Social Inclusion

The Times, June 11, 2007
Make migrants learn English, says Kelly

This article by Philip Webster, political editor, presents Ruth Kelly’s argument for councils to encourage immigrants to learn English instead of routinely translating documents into foreign languages. Ms Kelly said that translation had been used too frequently and could become a “crutch” that discouraged integration. The practice enabled new immigrants to avoid learning English when they first arrived, meaning that they never did, she said.

I would wholeheartedly support this principle if it was to be applied to English-speaking migrants abroad too. It is all too easy to create ghettos abroad where only foreign native languages are spoken-but it is also such a natural reaction when being uprooted...

It is interesting to see language presented here as a unifying element and a way to prevent segregated communities to be “a spawning ground for extremism”. I somehow feel that the social and economic factors of segregation need to be addressed too.
Learning the language can be a way to improve prospects through improved education but is it really what the majority of migrants immediately aspire to? This may a long-term investment some of them cannot afford.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

More Story-Telling Resources for Primary MFL

These site were recommended by Jo Rhys-Jones, creator of the Ning Network Talkabout Primary MFL . This is a lovely community keen to exchange ideas of good practice about teaching MFL in the primary school.
For those of you who are new to Ning networks check to register/ see how it all works. It is very user-friendly.
  • Fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and The Grimm brothers:

    These are animated fairy tales online in French, Spanish, Italian and Russian. They include information about the author, audio, games and colouring pages with the main characters from the fairy tales:
  • The Symphony of Friendship:

    This is presented as a Christmas present to all the children in the world. It is an illustrated story about how two enemies become friends through music. The story can be read in English, Japanese, German, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Korean, Russian or Italian. Please note that some of these sections are still under construction and the foreign characters do not necessarily all display properly-certainly the case for French and Spanish. Although it would require adapting, this could be used as a stimulus for a lovely Christmas project

Story-telling Resources for Primary MFL Teaching

Boucle d’or et les trois ours :

This fantastic site is on The Northumberland Grid for Learning. It provides resources for French, German, Spanish and Italian.

The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is presented as an interactive text which is read aloud in the chosen language by native speakers. The text is enhanced by an extensive bank of resources and activities to support language learning and thinking skills strategies. The resources include worksheets, Powerpoint presentations, smart notebook files, thinking skills activities, songs, word and picture cards, phrase cards as well as phonic grids and word cards. There is also a printable A3 or A4 version to use as a big book.

1001 contes is a French site with lots of stories including audio.

You can choose a story for a specific age range although you have to bear in mind this is developed for native children. The story could be introduced in English, listened to gist or detail with visual clues provided by the teacher through visuals or mime.

Les fables de La Fontaine

Those traditional French stories are inspired by Aesop,
see for more information and audio in English
They always feature animals in a symbolic way and end with a moral lesson.

This is also on the Northumberland Grid for Learning
It includes lots of Thinking Skills Activities: card sorting for phonics, adjectives, nouns, verbs and phrases, storyboarding, Ven diagram as well drama activities, songs and games.

Aux petites mains is a French with lots of resources. This link includes stories with extra resources such as pictures to colour in or cut out.
To teach numbers, check out the “5 petites souris” story.

Lire et recreer is a French site for children and parents
This link has a number of very short stories that could be used as stimuli for mfl/art projects.

Garabato is a site with audio stories, Aesop’s fables, picture stories, downloadable stories and many more links about children stories, drama and poetry.

More sites from South America are available from , the South American portal for children.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Summer Term Projects for KS3

The Summer Term is often one of the most chaotic in the school year: school trips, staff involvement in KS4 exams and other projects means that it can be difficult to build real progression from lesson to lesson.

Summer term projects can be an effective way to consolidate what has been learnt so far in the school year by putting it into practice in a more creative and open-ended way.

If you have good ICT access and/or links abroad, the following projects are self-contained with website and additional resources to be downloaded from the site including a full lesson plan.

Interactive Y7 , Y8 and Y9 activities (consolidation)

Grammar and colour projects (consolidation)

Tourism project

This project covers the tourism unit in the study of French and aims to promote both independent and co-operative work. Students are encouraged at all times to use basic language taught in lessons, for their own personal needs, and to seek out ways to extend their use of French through the study of authentic materials available on the Internet.

Resources include the use of the class text book, webquests for students to practise their tourism vocabulary and templates which students use to gather information to describe their own locality and areas which are unfamiliar to them.

Languages Through Drama

The aim of this project is to bring together students with a range of ages and abilities to learn and practice foreign languages through drama. The project will be particularly effective if the club is run jointly by teachers from the Languages and Drama departments, and further enhanced by the use of video.The play being performed throughout this resource is called Le Petit Chaperon Rouge

Bon appétit! Food project

Food and Culture Project

The aim of the project is to establish a primary link between two classes in schools where a common foreign language is taught [French in this instance]. Rather than starting the exchange between pupils via the use of e-mail for personal presentations, it will initially involve finding information about some of the other class’s cultural habits.

At the end of the project pupils will have established a rapport with their foreign friends and will choose a partner to begin their own personal correspondence in the shared foreign language.

Bienvenue à Paris

After some research into Paris monuments (in both English and the target language), students will be performing role-plays in French, based on a tourist visit to Paris. Students will use ICT equipment to produce a Powerpoint presentation on their chosen monument.

This page provides links and ideas for mini cross-curricular projects in Spanish.

The good old project on French culture could be helped by looking at sites such as
includes examples of language-based projects. The idea is to get the students to devise resources for themselves or other students. This could work well as a cross-stage project, where classes are twinned. It could also be used between similar schools as a way to provide a real audience for the materials.

Making Videos

This project is aimed at creating a video of a classroom activity, using video editing techniques to incorporate images, text, music and subtitles. It also allows the user to edit out mistakes, instead of having to re-record from the beginning. This allows teachers and students to record role play exercises, group discussions, presentations etc and then make a permanent visual record to share with other students.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

No Return to Compulsion? Lack of Foreign Languages Skills in Australia

One of the main messages from The Languages Review published in March 2007
was that there would be no return to compulsory study of modern foreign languages, unless the incentives put into place to encourage schools to increase their foreign languages uptake at KS4 proved to be ineffective.

It is therefore interesting to see that other English-speaking countries are afflicted by a lack of foreign languages skills in their workforce.

Australia's top universities are calling for a foreign language subject to be compulsory for all school students. Less than 6 per cent of year 12 students graduate with a second language in some states, and the number of university language courses has halved in the past decade.

The Group of Eight universities has described the situation as a crisis, saying language skills are needed for business and national security.

Group spokeswoman Professor Anne Pauwels says the entire education sector needs to take action.
"What we are advocating in order to maintain a global advantage is that all students are exposed to the learning of a language from primary right through to year 10," she said.,20867,21834703-2702,00.html

The Group of Eight, consisting of research-intensive institutions such as Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland universities, say the number of foreign languages taught at the tertiary level has almost halved, from 66 to 29, in the past 10 years. "Crisis is not too strong a word to describe the decline in foreign language education in our schools and universities," Group of Eight executive director Michael Gallagher said.
"Despite many positive efforts from committed teachers and language experts, the percentage of Year12 students graduating with a second language has fallen from 40per cent in the 1960s to as low as 6per cent in some states in Australia today."
He called for a national approach involving schools, universities and state and federal governments. "Our national deficit in foreign-language capability is something we can no longer afford to ignore," he said. "It is Australia's great unrecognised skills shortage, and the one most directly relevant to our competitiveness and security in an increasingly global environment."

The article at,23739,21859394-27197,00.html
also highlights issues about mfl teacher recruitment that reminds us of the situation in England pre-2004

“In Queensland as in other states, the chronic shortage of foreign language teachers will be a major stumbling block in overcoming the problem and, unfortunately, this week's State Budget did nothing to address the issue.
All schools have trouble filling language teachers' jobs and independent schools regularly have to look interstate to fill jobs.”

“British business has the worst language skills in Europe, with companies losing millions of pounds every year because employees cannot speak their customers' languages. While other European countries treat high-level competence in English and other languages as a basic skill, the number of British linguists in the sixth form has dropped dramatically. Nine out of 10 stop learning languages at 16, university language departments are contracting or even closing, and there is a critical shortage of language teachers”.

No Return to Compulsion? Lack of Foreign Languages Skills in the U.S.

One of the main messages from The Languages Review published in March 2007
was that there would be no return to compulsory study of modern foreign languages, unless the incentives put into place to encourage schools to increase their foreign languages uptake at KS4 proved to be ineffective.

It is therefore interesting to see that other English-speaking countries are afflicted by a lack of foreign languages skills in their workforce.

There has been on-going recognition of a lack of languages skills in the Unites States
As illustrated by this article published in the Desert News (Utah) in March,1249,660203468,00.html

“A person who speaks three languages is trilingual; a person who speaks two languages is bilingual; a person who speaks one language is — American. The cliche is an old one but was used at a translation summit in Salt Lake City on Monday to stress the need for greater language skills among the U.S. population if Americans hope to thrive in the international business community and improve their country's cultural and political standing across the globe.
"Sometimes breakdowns of communications have serious consequences," said Stephen Sekel, who oversees the editing and translation of official documents for the United” Nations”.
“The United Nations is facing a shortage of language professionals, who must have advanced language proficiency in three languages — one of which must be Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish or English”

Alfred Mockett, an international business executive who co-authored a report on international studies and foreign language education for the committee. Mockett said only one in three junior high and high school students in the United States studies a foreign language, and the number drops to one in 10 for college students. "In Denmark, even truck drivers speak three languages," he said.

This article from the American Forces Press Service highlights the new emphasis put on languages to ensure recruits are also culturally competent abroad.

..”ever-increasing numbers of cadets and midshipmen are studying and majoring in humanities and social sciences, with a growing emphasis being put on regional studies and language instruction”.

"We are increasingly a part of coalition forces, no matter where we go and where we operate," Mr. Mueller said. "And the better one understands the elements of those coalitions, the more effective one can be. In fact, it's critical that we understand other cultures, other languages, other regions of the world in order to work effectively in those coalitions." ”
As the largest service with the biggest footprint around the world, the Army is leading the global trend. Ten to 15 percent of cadets in every West Point class major in one of seven languages: Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese and Russian, Colonel Ragsdale said. All West Pointers, regardless of their major, must take at least two semesters of a foreign language, he said. Beginning with the class of 2010, cadets with non-technical majors must take four semesters of language training.”

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Early Language Learning, Bilinguism and Multilingual Britain

JOHN CLIFFORD says in the Scotsman

“CONTRARY to common belief, children are quite capable of understanding and moving across languages from an early age. Bilingualism has wrongly been blamed for learning difficulties in children of migrant families.

Research shows that learning a second language both "builds on the first language and consolidates it". Children do not become confused when they are exposed in their early years to two or more languages, any more than confusion arises when they hear two parents expressing themselves differently in the same language. Like multilingual adults, children often use words from one language when speaking the other but this does not mean they are getting mixed up. They are simply switching between two or more modes of expression.”

Full article available at

Children also can take on a lot more than one thinks. When speaking French to my 3 year-old son, I was baffled that some of his little friends were also responding to my comments. His little friends are not French or particularly exposed to foreign languages. So why is this happening?

My own personal theory is that, as we grow up we expect more and more not to be able to understand foreign utterances-not only different languages but also different accents. Young children seem to be much more able to use context and common sense to work out what they want to find out about. As we grow older, our sense of identity is intrinsically linked to our mother tongue. This is why I often hear this typical comment from teenagers raised in a monolingual environment: “I don’t want to speak French. I am English!”, as if using another language was a threat to their identity…

This report from the Scottish Languages Review shows how much young children can benefit from a rich foreign languages input at an early stage of their school career.

John Clifford states that “The fact only three percent of books published in Britain are translations from other languages indicates the degree to which other cultures tend not to be valued in Britain.

Much significant contemporary material exists only in the original language. The lack of importance attached to language teaching in schools and now some universities, means that many of us are unable to absorb documents and other writing, even to converse, in the major European and other languages. As a consequence we are astonishingly remote from our neighbours in the wider world - and increasingly in our midst.”

Latest estimates show that more than half the world’s population live in ‘multilingual’ areas, with 23 official languages, and hundreds of immigrant minority languages spoken in Europe alone.

Dr Priscilla Clarke, executive director, FKA Children’s Services, Australia, said that language hierarchies can have a profound effect on children’s learning.
She said: “The devaluing of children’s home culture and indigenous language can result in a loss of feeling of self-worth, loss of intimacy and the ability to build relationships, and, crucially, loss of motivation for learning.”

It is not new, England has always been multilingual!

The issues linked with students taking qualifications in their home language and the differences between mfl and community languages teaching are presented in this report, which could be the basis of a healthy discussion about raising the profile of community languages in your school