The draft languages framework, due to be published in September, will give 11-year-olds the chance to reach the same standard as they do in other subjects.
Languages are not compulsory in primaries but Charles Clarke, Education Secretary, has said he will consider making them mandatory if schools drag their feet. He is adamant that language learning is not just seen as a bolt-on - the National Languages Strategy has already criticised schools for relegating it to after-hours and lunch clubs.
In Wales, around 117 schools are taking part in a three-year pilot of French and German lessons for primary children. CiLT Cymru, the centre for languages, which is running the pilots, says there has been an enthusiastic reaction from pupils, parents and teachers. But it fears Wales is failing to make the most of its bilingual advantage. The Welsh Assembly has no plans as yet for a national roll-out of the pilot programme, and has rejected calls from CiLT Cymru for initial teacher-training courses in primary modern foreign languages. Such courses have been running in England for three years.
The draft key stage 2 modern foreign language framework for England outlines goals for each year group in four areas: oracy, literacy, knowledge about language and intercultural understanding. But Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said: "Finding an extra hour a week will be difficult, but as the emphasis on the core curriculum subjects is relaxed there may be more opportunity."
A 2002 TES survey found that to introduce languages half of heads would cut time from humanities subjects.