Language learning in Scotland: a 1 + 2 approach

Report and recommendations from the Languages Working Group on Scotland's language education policy.


We will introduce a norm for language learning in schools based on the European Union 1 + 2 model - that is we will create the conditions in which every child will learn two languages in addition to their own mother tongue. This will be rolled out over two Parliaments, and will create a new model for language acquisition in Scotland."
(Scottish Government manifesto commitment, 2011)

Scottish Ministers have set an ambitious and challenging agenda for future language learning and teaching in Scotland's schools. This Report brings forward far reaching recommendations by the Languages Working Group, with the purpose of establishing a new model for the learning and teaching of languages in Scottish schools for years to come. It describes a framework for language learning in Scotland based on the mother tongue + 2 additional languages model recommended by the European Union and adopted in many countries in Europe and beyond. The Working Group welcomes the Government's commitment to boost language learning in schools in all parts of Scotland. Our Report sets out to indicate ways of achieving this to provide a direction for Scotland to become a confident multilingual country of the future.

From its first meeting the Working Group was mindful of examples of high quality teaching of languages in Scottish schools, some of which were captured in the Modern Languages Excellence Group Report, published by Scottish Government in the Spring of 2011. The Working Group, therefore, took as one of its starting points the substantial research, the key messages and good practice highlighted in that Report. The Working Group also drew on the Gaelic Excellence Group Report, published at the same time, which highlights the success of Gaelic language teaching through Gaelic Medium Education ( GME) and the work being undertaken through Gaelic Learners in the Primary School ( GLPS).

Whilst recognising this good practice, it has to be acknowledged that there has been a significant and worrying decline over the past decade in the number of languages taken forward to SQA certification. There is, moreover, evidence that young people are not always sufficiently challenged and motivated by current language learning approaches. In engaging with a globalised world young people in Scotland will increasingly need to be able to communicate in more than one language. The Report's recommendations will mean shifting the prevailing culture where many people believe that knowing one language - English - is sufficient. Research commissioned by the Working Group also indicates that it is in Scotland's economic interest to have a workforce equipped with appropriate language skills and the ability to speak the language of our trading partners.

Introducing two additional languages is an ambitious goal but one which, given the right approach and the right resources, the Working Group believes is achievable. To deliver the framework, the Report recommends earlier access to language learning for children at the primary stage, enhanced partnership working between primary and secondary schools, closer collaboration across all sectors of education, more extensive and more effective use of technology and regular access to native and fluent speakers to stimulate young people's interest in language learning and other cultures.

Adopting the recommendations of the Working Group will mean an early process of engagement with all those involved with the teaching of languages in schools, in particular, with young people, their teachers and their parents. Achieving the Government's goal will require a commitment to the provision of additional resources for local authorities, schools and universities - a substantial challenge in itself at a time of unprecedented financial constraint.

The Working Group represented most of the stakeholder bodies engaged in language teaching in Scotland. This Report is the result of a real commitment and very intensive work by the members of the Working Group in a short space of time. It is very much a work of collaboration. The Report and its Recommendations are the result of genuine consensus within the Group.

I am pleased to commend the Report and its Recommendations to you.

Simon Macaulay


Email: Pam Semple

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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