Resources for Learning a Modern Foreign Language (MFL)
The Primary Curriculum Framework was published recently and Modern Foreign Languages are included as a subject for students from 3rd – 6th class. It hasn’t been specified yet who will teach this subject. Many primary teachers are wondering if they will have to learn a MFL if they don’t speak one to a sufficient standard already, or if specialist language teachers be provided.
My feeling is that it would be too much of an ask to require current primary school teachers to learn a new language (on top of their already massively overburdened workload), but that teachers who already speak a MFL and who wish to teach it, will be facilitated, and in schools where there are no teacher willing/ able to teach a MFL, specialist teachers will need to be recruited. Eventually though, MFL could become a part of the Initial teacher Education programmes so that teachers graduate ready to teach a MFL. I could be wrong about this, but I am very interested to see the Department’s plan for the roll out!
Personally, I have been learning Italian over the last few years (not in anticipation of the new Primary Curriculum, but for my own interests!) and I have used some useful resources for learning a MFL as an adult. In this post, I will share some of the resources that I have found helpful for anyone else who is looking to learn (or brush up on) a modern foreign language. All of the resources that I will share are available in a range of MFLs (although I have only tried the version for learning Italian).
I used this app on and off for about 2 years and completed their entire Italian programme. The advantages of it are that it is free (although more recently there are many advertisements that you must watch in order to access the free version), and that it covers the 4 skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. It can be a handy and convenient way to practice a language on a regular basis, however I found that it was not enough on its own in order to achieve more than a very basic level of proficiency in the language. That said, I once spoke to a young man in an Italian alimentari (food shop) Belgium who had excellent Italian which he claimed to have learned entirely from the Duolingo app!
“For Dummies” book
All of the main MFLs are covered in the “for Dummies” series and I gave the Italian one a go. It has many positive reviews on Amazon, so clearly some people found it good, but it wasn’t the resource for me. All of the basics are covered in it, but I just found it a bit dull and difficult to motivate myself to sit down and work through the book. The audio also comes as a separate download (or when I used it, a CD) and I just found it too awkward to have to find the correct section and play the CD whenever I needed to do a listening exercise.
Pimsleur Language Learning Programme
This is the programme that I have probably learned the most Italian from so far. It’s extremely convenient as I have it on my phone and I can listen to it and practice as I go about other jobs like cleaning the house or cooking! It works on the basis of learning a language quickly through the use of conversational exchanges which include the most common words and grammatical structures. The programme is excellent, but the main drawback is that it is very expensive (it’s almost $500 USD for the Italian course), but the good news is that it is actually available in the public libraries.
Michel Thomas Language Learning Method
This is another very user friendly programme as I have it on my phone and can listen when going about other tasks. It takes a slightly different format to the Pimselur programme, as you actually listen in on Italian lessons being given to 2 beginner learners. It’s a good programme and I did learn a lot from it. Again, it’s not cheap (the entire Italian language programme is 238Euro), but it can be accessed for free from the public libraries!
I find the Audible app excellent for audiobooks, and as my Italian improved, I decided to try listening to some beginners’ audiobooks. Whatever language you are studying, you will find audiobooks for beginners in that language on Audible. I tried a book of short stories for beginners from Lingo Mastery (they also have other MFLs), and while I found it helpful, it was definitely not suitable for beginners! I found it quite challenging even with an intermediate level. So, while I would recommend this approach, be wary of content that is marketed as being “for beginners”. In reality, you probably need to be at an intermediate or advanced level in order to be able to benefit from listening to audiobooks in an new language!
I also downloaded the Paul Nobel Italian programme from Audible on the basis of the excellent reviews it received. They also do many other MFLs. So far, I am finding this programme very helpful and user friendly.
There are many free lessons for language learning on YouTube, just type your language of choice and “beginners lessons”. The quality is variable, so you might have to try a few lessons before you find a good channel. I also like listening to Italian songs with the lyrics displayed on screen. If the songs are very famous, it’s usually pretty easy to find a translation of them to English online too. This can be a good way of learning phrases and common vocabulary.
I hope that the above helps you with your language learning journey. Let me know in the comments below if you have used these or any other programmes that you found helpful!