Modern Languages in the Primary School:

Author(s) Philip Hood, Kristina Tobutt
Publisher Sage Publications Ltd
Published 2009
Pages 240
Price £19.99
ISBN 9781848601291
Reviewed by Dr Liane Purnell
Newman University College
Review published 1 October 2009

This book raises the following questions: how can foreign language learning be tackled in primary schools? And in what ways can it be integrated into the primary classroom? It states as its intention to ‘examine ways in which language learning can be made a rich experience for all’ addressing, as an audience, those with language programmes already in place or those who wish to start language programmes.

‘The book:

  • Features a three stage practical approach to reaching languages with different age groups in primary schools
  • Develops a coherent view of language learning and teaching
  • Refers to the KS2 framework elements of oracy, literacy, intercultural understanding, knowledge about language and language learning strategies
  • Contains a chapter which offers a theoretical introduction to content and language integrated learning (CLIL)
  • Refers to the QTS standards and offers a short guide to internet-based and multimedia resources’. (back cover)

The ten chapters are broken down into very useful subheadings assisting the reader well.  The preface is helpful in setting the scene and orienting the reader, suggesting starting points appropriate to their experience. Each chapter has an introductory vignette which is helpful and interesting. For example the one for chapter 5: where to next? How can I embed the language into the school day and the wider curriculum? This sets the context of the children learning about the Vikings in French, offering a range of artefacts as part of a bartering dialogue. Reflection points are embedded with each chapter in grey text boxes. Research is embedded with the text in an appropriate way. The chapter summaries are useful.

The issues of embedding languages, transition to KS3, using the framework and research are all addressed, in chapter or subheadings, but I was surprised to not see 'enjoyment' up there with them. Examples are given in French, Spanish and German.

Each chapter has key and further reading but I would like to have seen more references to more up to date research to extend the reader and maximise the usefulness of the book.

I feel that the target audience would ideally be those familiar with modern languages (rather than a beginner) and one who had some familiarity with the topic. Having said this it would still be a useful addition to a library or as a source for student reference.

Dr Liane Purnell

Newman University College