British Council Language Trends 2018

“Languages remain a marginal subject which
many primary schools find challenging to deliver alongside many other competing demands.”

The latest British Council Survey Report on Language Trends (Language Teaching in Primary and Secondary Schools in England), has just been published.

Click here to read the full report.

These are some key quotes we have taken from the report.

  • In primary schools, the national picture is one
    of stasis, with little development since last year.
  • The lack of consistency between primary schools, in a context where secondary schools take pupils from many different feeders, is one of the barriers to smooth transition and hinders coherent progression in learning.
  • Just over a third (34%) of state secondary schools report that leaving the European Union is having a negative impact on language learning, either through student motivation and/or parental attitudes towards the subject.
  • There has been a decline in numbers taking French and/or German, but Spanish has increased rapidly over the past few years to become England’s second modern language. On current trends, it looks set to overtake French at A level by 2020 and at GCSE in the early 2020s.
  • Around 80% of (primary) schools allocate on average between 30 minutes and up to one hour per week for language learning, although comments indicate that this is often irregular or eroded by other priorities.

We believe that working closely with schools is the only way to increase the time KS1 and KS2  children are exposed to a new language.

Top 5 books for children learning French

Our top 5  books for children learning French

It’s not about old-fashioned vocabulary learning but letting the imagination wander. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day your child remembers one of these books as the beginning of their multilingual journey? Choosing the right books for children learning French should begin with one simple question: what books do your children like in their own language? The idea is, if something interests them in English, they’re more likely to want to read it in French. As we like to say at Speak Like A Native, same child, different language.

Let us know what you think of these choices or if you have any others to recommend.

French for children should always be fun. It's about building confidence and foundations that last a lifetime.
French for children – making languages fun

Le loup qui voulait changer de couleur


The wolf who wanted to change color! This is a great book from the serie “Le loup qui…” Really easy book to use with non French speakers to learn and practice colors and days of the week. There are so many educational yet recreational ways to read and use this book that it is not only a “must read” but a “must have”.

Bon appétit! Monsieur Lapin


Mr Rabbit doesn’t want to eat carrots anymore!. He decides to visit his animal friends to find out what they eat and if he would like their food. Great book to get the children to learn animals and funny French sounds. Easy to turn into a role play and practice simple question/answer structures in a fun way

Le loup est revenu!

Geoffroy de PENNART

Have you heard the news? The wolf is back ! The story is very easy to follow even without speaking French thanks to the self explanatory pictures and children will recognize all the characters from various well known big bad wolf fairy tales : the little red riding hood, the three little pigs, Peter, the seven goats, the lamb, Mr Rabbit…Another great story for a role play!

Je mangerais bien un enfant

Sylviane DONNIO – Dorothée de MONTFREID

I’d really like to eat a child ! Nothing scary here, just a naughty boy trying to be picky about his food and his parents are trying hard! Pretty self explanatory with the pictures, non French speakers will easily understand the story and then have a great opportunity to practice “I like” “I don’t like” bananas, cake, sausage etc.. all in French!.

Le voleur de poule


The chicken thief. Beautiful wordless book about an exciting chase through the forest, over the mountain and across the sea. This book is the best opportunity for a bilingual collective read. It is funny, touching and surprising. It can be read as a gamebook or a search and find book. Let your imagination run in that chase! A gem to be “read” in any language!

If you’d like to book a place for your child in one of our French clubs or would like us to open one in their school – click here.

Top 5 Songs for Children Learning French

Songs have always been a great way to help children learn a language. The chance to keep practising in order to “get it right” allows for repetition, which in turn acts as a memory aid. Of course, it has to be fun and something the children enjoy, which is why we regularly use this method in Speak Like A Native language clubs.

Here, Antonie, our Head of Language Guides, chooses her top 5 songs for children learning French.

Un jour dans sa cabane :
This is a really fun song with motions. The rythmn is very dynamic and the children can stand in a circle which is very helpful as they can see each other and therefore help each other singing and moving.

Jean Petit qui Danse :
Very active song where the children can learn about parts of the body while having fun dancing. A lot of repetition!

Il pleut il mouille :
Traditional song where you can add moves. Great to learn the vocabulary of the weather! Based on repetition.

1,2, 3 nous irons au bois :
Lovely traditional nursery rhyme to learn to count and play with sounds

J’aime les fruits :
Fun song to learn the names of the fruits. Children can learn it acting as the different fruits around a small choreography

Have fun with these!

The Key to Children Learning Languages

Time is all

Had any of us been born elsewhere, we’d be able to speak that language. Is that stating the bleeding obvious?

You may wonder how anyone can ever get to grips with tonal languages like Mandarin or Vietnamese. Those sounds! It must be impossible to know what anybody’s talking about where the same syllable changes meaning when the tone changes!

Or how about dealing with German word order? French irregular verbs? Spanish polite forms?

It’s always other languages that are a minefield. They seem designed to keep us out! And so it makes sense that many adults associate fear with learning a new language. There’s just so much you can get wrong. And it’s so easy to be made to look a fool.

So how can Chinese children learn Mandarin or Cantonese? And why do German toddlers manage to get to grips with something that looks so confusing in a grammar book?

Quite simply it’s about exposure. If you want your children to benefit from learning a new language then remain patient. Time is everything. The more exposure they get, the more they’ll naturally acquire the language. A few minutes a week just isn’t enough. Children need to be in an environment that makes sense to them, doing everyday things and activities they enjoy all in the target language. They need to hear the language in a meaningful context … over and over again. A few worksheets and learning some vocabulary is not really an alternative.

Mums and dads… be patient. The reward comes later and it really will be worth it.

Top 5 languages for UK children to learn

Speak Like A Native recently attended the launch of the British Council’s “Languages for the Future” publication as part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages at Westminster.

The powerful conclusion of the report is that, “… the UK has now reached a critical juncture where investment in upgrading the nation’s language skills is critical. The capacity of our country’s population to engage internationally will be central to strengthening successful economic, political, cultural and people-to-people relationships in Europe and globally in years to come. ”

And, as noted in the presentation, we are at this critical juncture because fewer young people are taking up languages at school. It is ironic that at a time when the talk is of Britain becoming more engaged globally, we are ignoring the one skill that opens doors commercially, socially and strategically.

But let’s look at this as an opportunity. If you make a decision now to prepare and equip your children for the future then they will have a real advantage. English speakers with one or two other languages that they can comfortably work and survive in will be at the front of the queue.

The report states that the five key languages are:

  1. Spanish
  2. French
  3. German
  4. Mandarin
  5. Arabic

All you need to do is start your children young and be patient. Very patient! It really does take time and you won’t see great results after a few weeks or months. But if they put the hours in then the rewards will follow.

If your child’s primary school does not provide enough language support then ask us to come and set up a language club. We’re here to help.

Speak Like A Native.

Helping your child learn a language you don’t speak

When your children come to you with questions about their maths homework, you might not know the answer but at least it looks vaguely familiar. What do you do when they want some help or support with a language that they’re learning which you don’t speak? All children in UK primary schools are supposed to do at least one lesson a week in a modern foreign language by KS2. French is still most popular but Spanish, German and Mandarin are also offered where the resources and skills are available.

At Speak Like A Native, we advise parents to encourage their children to bring the new language into the home and find some time and space where it can become part of family life. How does this work?

The best thing is to form an association with something they love. Don’t shout at us but we recommend giving your children extra screen time. Yes, that’s right! Try to find their favourite programme on Youtube in the language they’re learning. In other words, if they love Scooby Doo in English then they won’t need much persuading to watch it in Spanish (or French, German, Mandarin).

And you should sit and watch it with them. Believe it or not, that’s all you have to do.

But don’t forget that they won’t understand everything (or maybe even anything). That doesn’t matter. They are getting used to the sounds of the language and becoming familiar with the words and structures in a natural way through a meaningful context.

Here’s what you really should not ever do. Don’t ask them “what did he say?” because your child probably won’t be able to translate. This will create a negative attitude for them as they will be convinced they don’t understand.

Here’s what you should do. Ask them “what’s happening now?”, “why did he do that?”, “who’s that?” etc. This way you are engaging in a conversation about something your child is following in a foreign language and… your child is in control. What a wonderful feeling.

Good luck!

Speak Like A Native team.

School clubs

Well, it’s September and children are starting back at primary school this week. This is an exciting time as they move to a new classroom, get to know their year teacher and take on some fresh challenges.

In the UK, a lot of focus is on literacy and maths, the foundations of our education system. At Speak Like A Native , we support these aims but would like to see children having the opportunity to develop their language skills at an age when there’s no fear or psychological barriers.

When they become teenagers, language learning will mostly be about passing a GCSE. That brings with it the baggage of passing and failing and the labelling many of us remember of being GOOD AT or BAD AT languages. As adults we still refer to ourselves in these categories.

Our mission is to get every child in the UK participating in language fun, games and activities for an hour a day. And we mean… every kid! This is why we set up Speak Like A Native and why we try to get to speak to primary schools, PTAs and parents. All you need to do is tell us you want a school language club and we do the rest. Get in touch now and we can be up and running in January 2018.

Stuart Rubenstein

Speak Like A Native

Summer holidays

At Speak Like A Native, we’re dedicated to reshaping language learning at primary schools. That’s what gets us out of bed in the morning! Our target is to get all UK kids aged 5 – 11 doing at least an hour a day of “language learning.” There are many ways that we can do with Speak Like A Native; as language clubs, PPA cover or as part of our at home service.  And we always make sure it’s fun and meaningful, concentrating on the natural need for communication that motivates children to take part and get involved in activities, games and tasks.

This summer we’re working on systems and recruitment for some of the new schools where we’re launching in September such as Gospel Oak, UCS and St. Anthony’s.  We’re also planning on how we get Speak Like A Native out to your school. Please get in touch if you think your children’s primary school would be an ideal place to boost languages and prepare this generation for what’s to come.

And what is to come? Well, one thing that we can say for certain is that whatever jobs our children will be doing in 20 years’ time will most probably not look like the ones we do today. And for this reason, the best education we can give them now is based around developing their ability to be creative, flexible problem solvers. And there’s no better training for this than learning languages.

Stuart Rubenstein

Speak Like A Native

A session in a Speak Like A Native school club

Here’s an example of a recent Spanish session in a Speak Like A Native language club at Frith Manor Primary in Barnet, London.

The children (Year 1 -6), have only been together in this group for about eight weeks but are now used to the total immersion from the language guides (teachers). This means that from the moment they walk into the room after school, they know that every word they hear from an adult will be in Spanish. This doesn’t bother or scare any of them and they have got used to decoding the foreign language by focusing on familiar words, watching what their peers do, using the context and being prepared to have a go.

Over the last couple of months they’ve played games, completed tasks and got involved in a variety of activities. The motivating part of a Speak Like A Native session is that the activity itself is always more important than the language input. This means that if the children are playing Twister,  having a laugh and trying to win will always be the aim. We don’t want children to develop that adult fear of languages which is common to many of us; I am an outsider because I don’t understand EVERYTHING.

For this reason we encourage communication but we don’t insist it is in Spanish (or whatever the target language of the club is). This allows the kids to take instruction in Spanish but to reply to the language guide and discuss with the other children in English. As you can imagine, this immediately removes frustration as they get on with the game, activity or task.

Without fear or frustration, as the children are decoding what they hear, they also have the confidence to start throwing in Spanish words and trying to use the new language. Unlike “traditional” language teaching, we actively encourage them to speak in a combination of both languages. It’s part of the Speak Like A Native method that works so well because it feels natural.

The children have the need to communicate to take part and rather than feel frustrated that they can’t say what they feel because they don’t know enough Spanish, are very proud as they add the “foreign” words they know whenever it is appropriate.

In the most recent session, the children all made lists of whatever Spanish words they could remember from the last couple of months. They then worked in small groups to tell stories in Spanglish. Everyone had something to say and everyone felt they were actually using Spanish and communicating. This is half the battle!


At Speak Like A Native, the children should always say exactly what they want to say and bit by bit use more and more of the target language.

So, a child who adds one Spanish word to an English sentence is starting to successfully communicate in a new language. It’s that simple!

This way they grow up without language learning being about a gap in knowledge that you can never really fill… much better to view languages as something we use to communicate with others and have fun at the same time!

Stuart Rubenstein

Speak Like A Native

Children and foreign languages

Here’s some insight into why we developed Speak Like A Native.

I began teaching English to adults from all over the world in the 1980s. Each student had their own reasons for wanting to learn the language. However, over the years I started to notice that everyone wanted to tell me a story about their childhood experience of language learning and the lingering effects on their confidence when they got older.

I was told I was bad at languages.

It seemed no matter how much I learned there was always something more I could get wrong.

I feel stupid when I try and speak. In my language I can express myself perfectly. I’m not me in another language!

I have to think so much about what I want to say that by the time I’m ready to open my mouth the moment has passed.

I just don’t have an aptitude for languages.

Of course, every now and then I came across someone who felt that they were a natural at language learning or seemingly were super confident and couldn’t care less if they made a mistake or not. Fair play to them but they do make most of us a bit jealous!

One of the driving forces to set up Speak Like A Native was to work backwards and tackle those adult fears before they start to manifest in childhood. In other words, our vision is that the UK’s children leave primary education with self-belief and a positive attitude where languages are concerned. We want them to feel that speaking a foreign language leads to more fun and play and achieving their goals. Secondary school and GCSE preparation may be the right place for sorting out the grammar rules but before that it should be about communication in meaningful situations.

Stuart Rubenstein

Speak Like A Native