Introducing additional languages to primary

The Working Group recommends that schools offer children access to an additional language from Primary 1. (Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach, p12).
MLPS must be given the secure place it deserves in the primary school.
(Modern Languages Excellence Report, p23) .
We know from all of the research we undertake that early intervention produces the best outcomes for young people. The 1+2 Approach is designed to expose young people to different languages at the earliest possible opportunity and to shape their view that languages are something essential.
(Interview with Deputy First Minister, February 2017)

Good practice in early language learning

European Commission, European Commission (Last updated: 16 January 2013; Last viewed: 26 February 2013)

Good practice guidelines from the European Commission.

  1. Creating meaningful contexts. Storytelling provides children with a perfect framework for listening, speaking and spoken interaction.
  2. Language learning by imitation is very efficient at this age, for example repeating what a character in a story says, memorising a song, chant or poem.
  3. Establishing routines is important because this helps to structure what happens in the classroom.
  4. Maximum exposure to the target language not only from the teacher, but through a varied range of sources such as songs, DVDs, cue cards and any other resources available.
  5. Parental involvement: A clear definition of the objectives of the teaching and learning of a foreign language in primary education is essential for a shared understanding between the schools and the parents.
  6. Continuity and progression within primary and between primary and secondary is important for successful language learning and learner motivation.


Lessons from abroad: International review of primary languages

Teresa Tinsley, Therese Comfort, CfBT (2012)

An evidence base on language learning within various primary curricula across the world. Part 1 of the report reviews international research and development in early language learning, presenting evidence on the benefits of starting foreign language learning in primary school or earlier. Part 2 focuses on the issues and challenges common to all education systems that need to be addressed if primary language teaching is to be a success.

Key points include:

Research evidence on early language learning

  • Although researchers have not been able to reach any firm conclusion concerning the existence of a critical age, they agree that young children learn languages differently from older learners and have some advantages over those who start later.
  • Early learners tend to be more intuitive, less anxious and better at acquiring the sounds and rhythms of the new language.
  • Starting early allows for more time for language learning overall and a sustained experience with the potential to lead to higher levels of proficiency at the end of secondary school.
  • An early start is not a guarantee of success – the amount and quality of teaching are important determinants as well as continuity of learning in secondary school.


Nuremberg Recommendations for Early Foreign Language Learning

Goethe Institut, Goethe Institut (Revised edition: 2010)

Revision of the Nuremberg Recommendations for Early Foreign Language Learning which presents a contemporary perspective on the intricate web of factors involved in early foreign language learning, with the aim of showing both potential and needs of a four to ten-year-old child during learning.

This publication is addressed to all who work in the field of early foreign language teaching, decision-makers, school head teachers, those working in continuing professional development and extended education, serving and trainee teachers and early years practitioners, as well as students. Its intended readership also includes parents and other actors within the various contexts in which children grow up.

SCILT has extracted the key recommendations from this report.


Visit A 1+2 approach to modern languages on the Education Scotland website and search for languages on the National Improvement Hub to access the full range of support materials from Education Scotland.

L3 audit tools for use in primary and secondary contexts

Education Scotland, (July 2016)

​These tools are aimed at primary and secondary practitioners and will help practitioners to gauge whether their proposals fulfil the criteria to provide a suitable L3 experience.

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1+2 languages: progress from first to second level

Education Scotland, (July 2016)

This is a suite of advice, frameworks and resources to support primary teachers to plan for depth and progression in modern language learning experiences. These resources were developed in conjunction with primary practitioners who deliver L2 and L3 experiences.

This resource is for primary practitioners engaged in delivering modern languages as an L2 or L3 experience. It should be used in conjunction with the Significant Aspects of Learning in modern languages. This resource supplements the advice in the modern languages Principles and Practice paper. It supports practitioners in evaluating effectively children’s progress in language learning.

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Modern Languages Experiences and Outcomes at First Level

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (March 2015)

These First Level Experiences and Outcomes will allow practitioners delivering languages as part of the Scottish Government 1+2 policy to benchmark learners’ progress in the skills of listening and talking, reading and writing.

Education Scotland have published a PowerPoint to support the reflection on and engagement with the newly updated Experiences and Outcomes, which can also be accessed through the link below.

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A 1+2 approach to language learning - Further guidance on L3 within the 1+2 policy

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (February 2015)

This document provides guidance on the second additional language (L3) to be introduced by P5 by the latest, as a key element of the 1+2 policy. Learning a further language will give additional opportunities to build on children’s literacy skills so that they develop a greater understanding of how language works.

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Language Learning in Scotland: a 1+2 Approach - Working within the recommendations

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (July 2014)

1+2 clarification and recommendations for schools and EAs. July 2014 update.

Language Learning in Scotland: a 1+2 Approach - Further guidance on continuity of learning from P7 into S1

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (July 2014)

This paper provides an amendment to Recommendation 8 of the 1+2 report on continuity of L2 and L3 from P5-P7 into S1.

1 + 2 Approach to language delivery from P1 to P7

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (July 2014)

This document provides further guidance for practitioners who are planning learning and teaching from P1 to P7. It includes suggested approaches to learning and teaching, including approaches to Knowledge about Language at each primary stage.

A 1+2 approach to language learning: Guidance from P1

Education Scotland, Education Scotland (December 2013)

This online guidance features a zip file at the bottom of the landing page which includes a document outlining first steps to embedding additional language learning in the curriculum. Though badged for P1, this guidance is suitable for any teacher who is embarking on teaching a language for the first time or any class starting to learn a language for the first time, regardless of stage.

The videos from this resources can be viewed on YouTube.

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