The assertions were made by Brian Templeton, Glasgow University head of curriculum studies and part of the modern languages writing team that will influence how A Curriculum for Excellence takes shape across Scotland.
Speaking at a Scottish Association for Language Teaching (SALT) conference at Stirling University last week, he said: "The start of children's second language learning has to be successful and enjoyable; if we put pupils under pressure and they think 'I can't do this', it makes life difficult for all."
Mr Templeton said that emphasis should be shifted from coverage of language content to effective ways in which children can learn. He outlined the possibility of creating a "language dossier" for pupils, involving a broader gathering of experiences, such as visits abroad, which could sit alongside nationally accredited assessment. "We need to make more of the links to what they're bringing with them from their own language, that they're not arriving knowing nothing, that they have achieved a level of competence in their own language."
He envisages a continuous language learning process between P6 and S3, by the end of which most pupils will have achieved a minimum level of competence.