Put accent on infant languages

19th May 2000 at 01:00
YOUR report on the introduction of modern languages into primary schools is encouraging (TES, May 5), but it raises some issues which need to be addressed.

When I retired after many years of teaching French and German in secondary schools and university PGCE courses, I began some after-school primary French clubs locally.

I was pleasantly surprised to find five-year-olds to be excellent in using correct pronunciation, better in fact than the older children did. Then they caught sight of some printed French and immediately began speaking with English accents!

That the Government is "seriously considering" language teaching only for older primary children implies a lack of understanding of what is most effective. <> How can we ensure that primary children develop as good speakers of another language? Using recordings is clearly helpful, but the teachers involved need interactive training with fluent speakers of the languages required.

Mother-tongue speakers are valuable here, and so are secondary school modern language teachers. Such training needs to be fairly intensive and teams of experienced language teachers should be given time to work as advisors in primary schools.

Let's hope a generous investment is made to make such an innovation effective. And, please, let there be no testing which tends to end up concentrating on written language anyway.

Marie-Paule Aylwin

13 Red Hill



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