Second language

Teaching of second language in Primary School


1. Introduction


Since their creation, the European Schools have offered pupils the possibility of learning a second language upon entry into the primary school.


Pupils can choose from the three Working Languages of the European Union:

– English

– French

– German


For each child this will become their Second Language (LII) in the Secondary School until they obtain the European Baccalaureate.


a)  Aims

These are defined as follows:

·         To give the child an appreciation of the possibility and pleasure of understanding and speaking another language

·         To facilitate the child’s integration into the European School system and to enable him to understand the language and culture of other children

·         To allow the child, when in Secondary School, to follow stipulated subject in their second language

·         To develop a sensitivity towards the language in general and in various contexts

·         To develop an awareness of the culture of their second language through the knowledge and experience of a mother-tongue teacher


b)  Foreign languages at the European School

1st year Primary           Second language (LII) plus Irish, which is compulsory for Irish pupils

2nd year Secondary        Third language (LIII)

3rd year Secondary        Teaching of human sciences (History, Geography) in LII

4th year Secondary        Fourth language (LIV) plus History, Geography and Economics in LII


c)  Learning context

The linguistic diversity of the school population (family background, professional etc,…) automatically results in children arriving at the school with varying levels of competence.


Naturally the acquisition of language is influenced from the start by the child’s family situation, the school environment and, of course, by the child’s particular aptitude and ability.


Thus, within each linguistic group are pupils ranging from complete beginners to those who are, in effect, orally bilingual.


This diversity creates a situation which is stimulating and which enables pupils to learn from one another.

Except in 6th and 7th year where LII can be a language other than the Working languages


2. The organisation and objectives of teaching in the primary school


a)  Organisation

At each level of the primary school, children receive one lesson per day, except in the 2nd year, they do not get taught LII on Wednesday.

In the 1st year, the course commences after the All-Saints midterm holiday. This enables the child to integrate well into his/her mother tongue class and allows time for adjustment to the primary school timetable.


Each language lesson is composed of children of different nationalities; the course is taught in another classroom. The second language teacher arranges a meeting to explain the objectives and content of the syllabus and is available to meet parents individually.


The maximum number of pupils permitted in second language classes is twenty-four.

A compulsory back-up course (“rattrapage”), consisting of 90 minutes of instruction per week, is organised for those who have recently joined the 3rd, 4th and 5th year.


b)  Objectives and implementation

The method of teaching second language conforms to the following overall objective:

The study of the four functions of the language: listening, speaking, reading and writing, instilling an appreciation of the culture of the language as well as communication skills.


In the 1st and 2nd years, the content of the syllabus deals mainly with the acquisition of oral and aural skills and introduces the first contact with written language together with activities and games.

In the 3rd, 4th and 5th years the lessons, while no less active, attempt to develop oral ability and, in so far as the knowledge already gained in mother tongue allows, to build on relevant abilities in reading and writing


3. Choice of language


The choice of second language is left to the parents.

In view of the importance attached to this choice in terms of its impact on the school life of each child, here are a few points which may help parents in coming to a decision:

It is recommended that the second language chosen in Primary School (English, French, German) should be the language which is most easily accessible.

Which means;

The second language spoken at home or the language of the host country or the language with which the pupil is likely to come into regular contact with (through family, friend, or on holiday…)


Point 1:       once the second language has been chosen, it remains unchanged for the whole of the pupil’s primary and secondary schooling.

Point  2:      For the Social Studies course in the 3rd year Secondary; and subsequent optional courses (see 1b), it is presumed that, owing to this continuity during the primary and secondary school, the pupil will have acquired a certain level of written and oral competence.


4. Conclusion


After thirty years of experience in the early teaching of a second language, the European Schools have acquired considerable expertise in the field.

Should parents require further information or help in making this important choice of second language, the Deputy Headmaster of the Primary School and her staff is there to be of assistance.


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