Document 504

Progression in Language Awareness through Modern Languages

Author(s): Brian C Templeton

Copyright holder(s): University of Glasgow: re-use of Crown Copyright material


The premise upon which this Position Paper is based is that:
‘making the learner conscious of the similarities and differences between the languages they know or are learning can contribute to the development for the learner of all the languages involved.’ (Subject Guide: Modern Languages – Higher Still)

This development can be structured in terms of age progression into the three sections which are commonly used in describing the stages of school provision in Modern Languages:
• P6 – S2 (Modern Languages 5-14: National Guidelines)
• S3 – S4 (Amended Arrangements in Standard Grade Modern Languages)
• S5 – S6 (Higher Still: Subject Guide Modern Languages)

Although each of the three sections is discussed in turn, it is important to view them as forming a coherent and progressive learning continuum, where knowledge gained in one section is consolidated and developed in the subsequent sections. The main purposes of this paper are:
• to highlight the opportunities which exist at each of the three stages to make explicit links between the pupils’ knowledge of English and of the foreign language
• to describe the type of discussion which may be appropriate at each stage.

For a fuller treatment of progression, the reader is directed to the key document in Modern Languages for each stage referred to above.

P6 – S2 (Modern Languages 5-14: National Guidelines)

The introduction of a foreign language into the primary school curriculum gives the teacher the opportunity to revise and apply oral and written terminology which the pupils will have encountered through their study of English language to the new study of a foreign language. Such terms are outlined in the Knowledge about Language strands of "English Language Guidelines 5-14", and will be familiar to all primary teachers. In developing the aural/oral skills of Listening and Speaking, the teacher will be able to highlight the differences and similarities in the rules of pronunciation and intonation.

When the written form of the words is introduced, the teacher can engage the pupils in discussion as to the differences and similarities in terms of spelling (and accents) and also as to how the conventions of punctuation and layout contribute to reading comprehension. Underpinning this development in the four language skills will be a gradual awareness of how the structure of the new language operates and how grammatical awareness can contribute to greater accuracy and confidence in both the receptive use (Listening and Reading) and the productive use (Speaking and Writing).

The areas of grammatical awareness, some of which might be introduced to pupils at the P6-7 stage and some of which would be introduced and developed in greater depth in S1-2, would include:
• nouns (concept of gender / singular and plural forms) le crayon, la règle, les stylos
• adjectives (concept of gender / singular and plural forms) petit, petite, petit(e)s
• markers or determiners (definite / indefinite / partitive / possessive articles) le, las, les / un, une / du, de la, des, / mon, ma, mes /
• common prepositions dans, devant, derrière
• verbs (clear indication of the person involved in the action by awareness of pronouns and/or endings) je vais au match / elles arrivent demain
• tense (notion of present, future and past time is clear from the verb form and/or from other time words which make the timing clear) il est arrivé hier
• commands (common singular/plural commands for classroom and craft activities) Regardez / Coupez / Écoute(z)
• modality (the meaning and use of modal verbs mainly as fixed phrases) il peut / doit / veut le faire
• word order (particular to each language)

The contexts within which these points would be encountered and discussed would include:
• language for use in classroom situations
• songs, rhymes, stories, games and craft activities
• exchanging information, e.g. about self, family, pets and interests
• transactional situations, e.g. in café and market.

The opportunity to establish contact with speakers of the target language should be exploited, using e-mail technology, as should the opportunity to undertake projects which highlight social and cultural differences and similarities between speakers of English and speakers of the target language.

A further opportunity to make explicit the link between languages might also occur at the point of transfer from primary to secondary school. Although the recommended policy is for pupils to continue study of the same foreign language begun in primary school, it is possible that some pupils may move to a secondary school where a different foreign language is offered in S1 (e.g. German in primary and French in S1). In this case, although the pupils will not have covered the same vocabulary as their peers, it is important that the teacher remembers that the pupils will have covered similar language and developed similar skills and strategies for learning and will have a developing knowledge of two language systems (English and German) with which the teacher can establish links.

S3 – S4 (Amended Arrangements in Standard Grade Modern Languages)

Continuing with the study of the same foreign language into S3-4 should allow pupils to consolidate and build upon an increasing awareness of the structure of the foreign language. At the same time, they will by this stage be familiar with an increased range of terminology, as a result of discussion as to how the English language is structured. Drawing upon these two areas of knowledge, the pupils in S3-4 should be able to progress in all the grammatical areas begun in P6-S2, in order
• to express meaning with greater precision
• to express meaning with greater formal correctness
• to generate new meaning on the basis of rules.

This ability to understand and use more complex grammatical structures will be seen particularly in the following areas:
• control of verb tenses: present, future, completed past and continuous past
• control of modal verbs in common tenses
• the case system for nouns/pronouns and how this affects markers and adjectives
• pronouns (direct, indirect and reflexive)
• comparative and Superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs.

The contexts within which these points will be encountered have as their purpose the preparation of the pupils for direct contact with speakers of the target language, whether this involves the pupils travelling to the foreign country or the speaker of the foreign language coming to Scotland. As well as continuing the development of personal and social language, there is also an emphasis on transactional language, which will enable the pupil to survive in real situations, which the pupils will encounter if they travel to the foreign country. This again provides opportunities to develop the pupils’ awareness of the culture of the foreign country and to benefit from the possibilities of establishing links via the Internet with speakers of the target language.

In some schools, S3 may also provide the opportunity for some pupils to begin the study of a second foreign language. Although such pupils will be covering the S Grade syllabus within an accelerated timescale, they will have a developing knowledge about two major European languages on which to draw.

S5 – S6 (Higher Still: Subject Guide - Modern Languages)

For those pupils who continue with the study of the same foreign language into S5-6, progression is described in terms of the complexity of the language which they are expected to understand and to use, and in terms of the purposes for which the language is used. Although the pupils still continue to exchange information about themselves in S5-6, they are expected to do so with a higher level of sophistication in terms of content and language awareness than at the earlier stages of language learning.

The prescribed themes and topics at Higher level make it clear that students must operate at the level of exchanging opinions and ideas (not merely facts) and must be able to agree and disagree with differing views held by others in society. To perform at this level of sophistication, students require command of a wide range of vocabulary and structures and an increasingly high level of grammatical accuracy in the areas begun in P6-S4. In addition, students at this level would be expected to demonstrate knowledge of the following grammatical points:
• control of conditional and pluperfect tenses and awareness of subjunctive forms je voudrais, j’avais mangé, quisiera, si tuviera
• control of modal verbs in less common tenses j’aurais voulu / pu / dû
• prepositional effects with nouns and verbs elle est sorti en courant, entraron corriendo
• less common comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.

The emphasis on an increased level of accuracy and precision in how language is used is evidenced by the inclusion of translation from the target language into English (at Higher and Advanced Higher level) and the inclusion of a Language in Work option (with an emphasis on formal register) at all levels in the Higher Still framework. The language contexts at Higher and particularly at Advanced Higher level have as their purpose the preparation of the student for a discussion on topics of common interest with a speaker of the target language of similar age and interests.

This could be achieved in the first instance through contact with a foreign language assistant or through a work placement or holiday job in the foreign country and ultimately through a period of study in the foreign country under the Socrates scheme for student mobility. The opportunities to study in still greater depth the culture of the foreign country are most evident in Advanced Higher level, where two of the three prescribed themes of study are:
• personal, social and cultural issues
• topical and cultural issues.

In addition, students are required to study at least one literary text written in the foreign language and may either study another literary text or undertake a background study into a specific aspect of the culture, history or geography of the foreign country. The study of literary texts in the foreign language opens up a new and fertile area for comparison of texts studied in English and allows the recycling of terminology first encountered in the study of English literature.

It is increasingly likely that S5-6 will be the stage of the school curriculum where students will begin the study of a second (and in some cases a third) foreign language. In many cases such students will be highly motivated and will have already experienced success in learning at least one other foreign language and be able to move through the Higher Still framework at an accelerated rate. However, in all cases where students begin a new language in S5-6, they bring with them knowledge of English and of one other European language. If we can help these students to understand how this knowledge can be transferred to help them master a new language, then their progress will not only be quicker but will be more secure, as it will be based upon an awareness of how language (whether English, French, German, Spanish or Italian.) works.

This work is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

The SCOTS Project and the University of Glasgow do not necessarily endorse, support or recommend the views expressed in this document.


Cite this Document

APA Style:

Progression in Language Awareness through Modern Languages. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 21 July 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Progression in Language Awareness through Modern Languages." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 21 July 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Progression in Language Awareness through Modern Languages," accessed 21 July 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 504

Progression in Language Awareness through Modern Languages


Text audience

Adults (18+)
Audience size 1000+

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 2000
Word count 1806
General description One of a series of position papers on current educational developments in relation to language education

Text medium

Other CD Rom of teacher materials (LILT)

Text publication details

Part of larger text
Contained in CD Rom: LILT Materials
Editor J McGonigal / C Kay
Part of a longer series of texts
Name of series Position Papers: CD Rom: LILT Materials

Text setting


Text type

Prose: nonfiction


Author details

Author id 721
Forenames Brian
Initials C
Surname Templeton
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation University Lecturer
Place of birth Newton Stewart
Region of birth W Dumfries
Birthplace CSD dialect area Dmf
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Baker
Father's place of birth Colmonell
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Shop Assistant
Mother's place of birth Dumfries
Mother's region of birth E & Mid Dumfries
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Dmf
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes Work and home
French Yes Yes Yes Yes At work and on holiday
German Yes Yes Yes Yes At work and on holiday
Scots Yes No No Yes Visiting family, relatives