The 2014 Primary National Curriculum once again made learning a foreign language compulsory at Key Stage 2 (Years 3 to 6). Schools are free to choose whether to teach an ancient or a modern language; it is much more about language learning skills than the particular language on offer. Your child could therefore learn French, Spanish, Mandarin, German, Arabic or even Latin — the choices are endless! However, once your child begins secondary school the teaching of a modern foreign language is compulsory.
By studying a foreign language, children are given the opportunity not only to learn about other cultures but, more importantly, to communicate with others too. It is also a thoroughly enjoyable subject to learn, with less emphasis on the written word and more on practical tasks, such as drama, story-telling, role-play, speaking and listening.
Even though learning a language is only compulsory from Year 3 upwards, there is no reason why a school may not choose to introduce some informal learning in the years before this. Some schools use singing or simple story-telling, and there are even nurseries who teach counting, colours and greetings in a foreign language.
All children in Key Stage 2 are expected to be given opportunities to learn how to:
The curriculum no longer sets out topics or units of work to cover; instead it outlines what children should be taught under more general headings. Some of these include:
Each school is free to teach this content however it chooses but most will choose a range of everyday and routine topics such as numbers, colours, greetings, family, animals, school, travel, or other similar subjects that seem appropriate. Year 3 can often be the first time a child will learn a foreign language and in this year group they might just use speech and limited written tasks to learn the basics. As they move up from Year 3 children will see much more of the written language and build on their early skills, allowing them to speak, write and listen with much more skill.