Modern Foreign Languages - Letting loose the lingo

18th November 2011 at 00:00
Embedding foreign culture can add a new dimension to lessons

Many areas of the school curriculum can address "intercultural understanding". But for language teachers, different countries, cultures and ways of life are the essence of the subject.

Bringing aspects of other countries and cultures into our lessons enriches and enlivens the learning. We hope that pupils will begin to understand that their culture and way of life is not the only one, and that is not necessarily the right one. We strive to show students that "foreign" is not synonymous with "wrong".

Language and culture are inextricably linked. For example, the Spanish word puente does not always mean "bridge" in its strictest sense. A little investigation reveals a tradition for taking days off that you'll wish happened at home. Understanding and respecting the culture of the other country enhances the language-learning experience and makes the learning deeper and more meaningful.

It is through embedding cultural understanding in schemes of learning that we can really enrich and rejuvenate the dull topics. Here are some ideas to illustrate how it could work.

In my pencil case

This topic is often used as an example of all that is wrong with MFL teaching: "Who cares what the children have in their pencil case? It's not inherently interesting." Find out about la rentree in France. Study a list of the equipment that French pupils have to provide for themselves at the beginning of each school year (http:bit.lyiQjgYg) and consult a website that sells school equipment online (http:bit.lyotsh35).

Food and drink

Look at school-dinner menus, such as French ones (www.ville-epinay-sur-orge.frle-menu-de-vos-enfants), and compare them with school dinners from around the world (http:bit.lyekbwXp). How do they compare with British dinners?


Use images of celebrations or important events, such as a picture of San Fermin for July or a bleuet for November.

Clare Seccombe is an MFL teacher and consultant, and an advisory teacher for primary languages. Follow her on Twitter at @valleseco or visit or


For some resources on healthy eating in French, try rb283's food worksheets, listening activities and reading sheets.

Istwentyfive has also shared a handy vocabulary sheet for food keywords.

For a Year 9 options topic, why not try the importance of learning a language - it relates to food. Try slick's resource.

In the forums

A teacher is looking for advice on a school dinner-themed lesson in French. And if you're looking for speaking and listening ideas to try with your class, pay us a visit, too.

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