Discovering Language at Firs Primary School
At Firs Primary School we have decided to implement an alternative approach to the teaching of languages in Key Stage 2. This year we have moved away from the traditional single language model of Modern Foreign Language teaching and are trialing Discovering Language.
What is the Discovering Language Program?
The Discovering Language Program is based upon the ‘Language Awareness’ vision of language learning set out by Professor Eric Hawkins in his 2005 paper in the ‘The Language Learning Journal’. It was developed by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) with support from the Esmee Fairburn Association.
Hawkins proposed that language learning should fall into two stages; stage 1 (5-14 years) should be ‘educational foreign language learning’, followed by ‘instrumental’ language learning in stage 2 (14-19).
Discovering Language aims to meet the requirements of Hawkins’ stage 1, educational language learning which includes:
It is an adaptable, multilingual model which can be delivered by non-specialists. In Discovering Language, pupils have the opportunity to study 4 or more languages from a variety of language families, as well as non-language specific modules (generic studies of language features), which enable children to become aware of similarities and differences between languages as well as developing their understanding of the origin and purpose of language.
What are the benefits of Discovering Language instead of the typical single language model studied at a primary level?
Which languages are taught at Firs Primary School, and how are they chosen?
Latin is studied for one year in lower key stage 2. As an ancient language the focus is to provide a “linguistic foundation for reading comprehension and an appreciation of classical civilisation” (National Curriculum).
The study of Latin provides many opportunities for the study of etymology (word origins) which supports spelling and vocabulary in the English language. It also enables teachers to build upon cross-curricular learning opportunities arising from historical study of the Greek and Roman civilisations.
German is studied for one year in lower key stage 2. This language was chosen as it is from the Germanic language family and has close links with the English language, providing opportunities for further study of etymology. It is a frequently studied foreign language with a wide range of available teaching resources. The school has also made links with a partner school in Osnabruck – Derby’s twin city, which means that the children will have meaningful opportunities to practice their written German when writing to German pupils.
Spanish is studied for two terms in year five. This ensures that pupils have a basic foundation in Spanish preparing them for further study of the language should they go on to study it at Key Stage 3. Spanish is taught in several of the local secondary schools. Spanish is also considered more accessible than French as it is phonically regular. There are a wide range of teaching resources available to support the teaching of Spanish.
Russian is taught over three terms in Year 6 in greater depth than the other languages studied. The school are lucky enough to employ a Russian speaking teaching assistant, with a ‘Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language Qualification’, who delivers Russian lessons with the support of qualified teachers. Russian has been chosen at it provides the children with the opportunity to study a language using a different alphabet, as well as being a local community language. This enables us to build on the knowledge that some of our pupils already have about Russian language, culture and traditions
Slovak and Roma
These are our most widely spoken community languages. Although there are currently no commercially available resources to support the teaching of these languages, the school is working in partnership with the local community and New Communities Achievement team to develop video-based resources to support pronunciation. The aim of teaching these languages is to strengthen links and appreciation of cultural diversity between children from different cultural backgrounds at the school. Roma teaching sits alongside our annual celebration of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month and Slovak is taught for two weeks in lower key stage 2 and Year 5.