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Modern Languages - Let's hear it for the boys

What's it about?

It's a well-worn cliche that boys don't "do" languages. Language learning in the UK is in terminal decline, but the figures for boys taking exams are dire and getting worse, writes Andy Holland.

So how do we motivate boys? Bringing languages into assemblies, music and drama, sporting events and even parents' evening (why not a French cafe or Bierstube?) is essential. We must also work with other curriculum areas, particularly the traditional "boy" subjects such as sciences, technology and PE. You can easily arrange to teach some biology in a French class or do a joint project on a Spanish football team.

We also need to choose topics wisely so that they are more appealing to boys. Why teach them about housework or buying a rail ticket when they are more interested in youth culture, computers, sport and dating?

Technological touches

Technology is brilliant at helping to deliver exciting, varied and vibrant lessons. Boys enjoy working with the interactive whiteboard, being able to move around and compete. Technology also promotes personalised, differentiated and independent learning. Sites such as,,,, stepintogerman and TES Resouces are terrific.

Keeping boys on board

Praise, incentives and recognition are essential for keeping boys motivated. I have a jar of sweets and reward good effort and work with merit stickers and even postcards home (check out Have a man (or player) of the match at the end of each lesson and reward good work and behaviour. Keep boys busy with a variety of activities. Once they feel safe and successful, they will be hooked and more likely to carry on with language learning.

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