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Learning foreign languages is to be made compulsory in English schools for children from the age of seven.

Education secretary Michael Gove last week unveiled new reforms, which will have a significant impact upon the national curriculum.

All children from the age of just seven will reportedly learn a foreign language, which could be Greek, Latin or even Mandarin – one of the toughest languages for any native English speaker to learn.


The primary aim of this plan to make make language learning in primary schools compulsory, is to increase the number of students taking a foreign language at GCSE level. According to reports, children will be expected to formulate complete spoken sentences with appropriate pronunciation, and showcase an ability to express simple ideas clearly in other languages.

It is anticipated that they will also develop an understanding of the basic grammar of different languages, and to be able to recite songs and poems in the languages chosen by the schools. Ministers claim that teaching will focus on making “substantial progress” in one language.

The new programmes of study, which are being published for consultation this week, are set to be introduced nationwide from September 2014 following a report into the future framework of the national curriculum in England.

The new curriculum will focus on the importance of grammar in English Language and Literature too, with the government setting a precedent by creating a list of words that all children must learn how to spell. These will include ‘bruise’, ‘destroy’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘tyrant’, according to the review. Pupils will be also expected to learn complete poems and recite them in public as they would a song. They will also be taught how to debate from a young age.

The new English curriculum will stress that by the end of year 4, children should be actively listening to and discussing a wide range of fiction and nonfiction. There will be greater focus on learning to read through phonics too.

The number of primary schools teaching languages has steadily increased as a response to a specific target set by the previous government. However, school inspectors say headteachers’ monitoring of language provision can be weak. This is often because primary heads feel they lack the competence and experience required to judge language provision, according to Ofsted. Languages have subsequently fallen at GCSE since they were made optional at the age of 14. In 2010, just 43% of GCSE candidates opted to take a foreign language in years 10 and 11, down from 75% in 2002.

How do you feel about these government initiatives? Is seven a good age at which to start learning a foreign language? Will the move help to create to more linguists in the future? Let us know your thoughts via the comment box below.

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