All pupils to learn two foreign languages by high school

P1 pupils will be taught modern languages in nearly all city schools. Picture: Gpoint Studio
P1 pupils will be taught modern languages in nearly all city schools. Picture: Gpoint Studio
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IT’S the pioneering programme aimed at making ­language learning as easy as un, deux, trois.

Every pupil in the Capital will receive lessons in at least two foreign languages by the time they leave primary school under radical plans aimed at helping them keep pace with peers across Europe.

City bosses have confirmed they want to introduce the new scheme, called 1+2, by the start of 2017 – three years ahead of a national deadline set for 2020.

Youngsters will be offered classes in core languages including French, Spanish and Mandarin, as well as Gaelic, Scots and “heritage” tongues such as Polish and Farsi.

The Edinburgh roll-out is part of a Scottish Government-led initiative which will see all children learn a second language from P1 and have experience of a third from P5 at the latest.

Parent leaders in the city have hailed the development and said it would help prepare youngsters for the modern world.

Alex Ramage, parent representative on the city council’s education committee, said: “This is a really important part of trying to ensure that our children are as well placed as possible to work in the world that will be coming forward.

“One of my children is still at primary school and in P1 did French and Spanish with a little bit of Mandarin thrown in. And my eldest did French and Spanish in P7, and is still doing French in S3.

“I’m fully supportive of this. I think it’s a great thing for the children and they seem to be enjoying it. It’s so important to get them into language learning early.”

The plan comes as evidence suggests that pupil uptake of foreign languages across Scotland remains weak.

School bosses in Edinburgh are particularly concerned about a decline in the provision of German, despite the country’s economic importance.

Language experts have welcomed the roll-out, but said pupils here were playing catch-up with children overseas.

Professor Antonella Sorace, director of the Bilingualism Matters centre at Edinburgh University, said: “I think this is definitely a good thing.

“Scotland and the UK are behind the rest of Europe, where the vast majority of children are studying a language other than their mother tongue in P1.

“It’s great that we are doing this and that the plan is proceeding at a good pace. It’s important to remember that children are great language learners – they can learn languages more easily than adults.

“But there has to be sustained exposure to a language so that children not only learn it but retain it over time.”

City chiefs said they were determined to boost the number of pupils opting to study foreign languages, particularly German.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “German is becoming increasingly popular and we have a number of strong partnerships in place with Mainz University, Goethe Institute and the University of Edinburgh German Ambassador project.

“The cognitive, cultural and economic benefits of language learning are all key drivers in our commitment to their introduction from nursery across all our schools by the end of next year.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com