Should My Child Start Learning French in Primary School?

At the beginning of my career I used to wonder why parents were so keen on having their children learning French in primary school. I thought it was too early and unnecessary although I went on having French clubs with very small groups of children. I made sure that these after-school clubs were fun as they had already had a day at school and I was expecting them to need to unwind.

Years went by and these kids grew into teenagers who told me that my clubs were the trigger for their love of French. They took French GCSE, then several continued with French A level and some are now reading French at university.

A number of them came back to me for private tuition to ensure an A* in their French GCSE. They weren’t happy with the teaching at school as most of the time was spent writing in books and they got no practice of French. However, the speaking is the key to the improvement and enjoyment of learning a language. Without oral practice, there is no chance to build the confidence needed to excel in French.

The common factor among my students who started French in my after-school clubs and continued throughout secondary school was the brilliant pronunciation and accent. They never lost this. It was wonderful to see them again years later and to hear how accurate they were in pronouncing French words whereas new secondary school students tend to be uncomfortable uttering these foreign sounds; they have trouble saying the words not only due to the numerous pronunciation rules of the French language , but also because too little emphasis is put on speaking the language at school, thus the muscles in their mouth are not used to the different positions of the tongue and jaw. Still, this can be rectified as long as the teacher takes time to work on the pronunciation and offers lots of opportunities to speak French.

With decades of teaching all levels -children, teenagers and adults – I can say that starting French in primary school, in year 5 or 6, will certainly do wonders to the accent, the ease in pronouncing the French sounds, so different from English, and will give the pupils confidence in learning and speaking a foreign language at school.

French Online organises after-school French club in Temple Fortune NW11. Please email: n.ollivier@learningfrench.co.uk or call 0208 458 4404

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