Primary School

College Square, Bristol BS1 5TS

0117 353 2052


Modern Languages at Cathedral Primary School

At Cathedral Primary School, children start learning French in Reception. They have 20 to 30 minutes of tuition per week with Nathalie Harkness who is a French native speaker who also works at Bristol Cathedral Choir School, our secondary sister school. Although the government Framework for Languages (click here to view Languages programmes of study: KS2) only requires that pupils start a foreign language in Year 3, we think your children benefit from getting a head start. By starting early, they can approach a foreign language in the same way they learnt their mother tongue, through rhymes, songs, games, repetition and oral interactions. Being taught by a native speaker means they are in the best position to pick up a perfect accent. It also makes it more relevant to them to learn that language as they know their teacher comes from another country where the language is spoken and they are introduced to a wealth of cultural topics and stories. We also find that the children grow accustomed to greeting Nathalie in French whenever they see her in school whether or not it is French lesson day. This should certainly help them feel less inhibited about talking.

We will give you an idea, below, of how much your children will learn as they move up the school. The best way to support their learning (short of going on holiday to France, Belgium, Luxembourg, some parts of Switzerland, Monaco, north Africa, Quebec, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, New Caledonia, French Polynesia… etc) is to let them sing to you, or count, or tell stories they have learned. They will be happy to teach you some French! Please let them teach you; they do tend to pick up a very good accent. One thing to add, though, is that some children can find it hard to relate to what they have learned when it is out of context but they are still registering a lot.

What the children will learn in Reception

Reception children are so engaged and open to the idea of learning a new language. Here are some of the things Reception children will learn this year.

  • Greetings – bonjour/au revoir/ça va?/bien/très bien
  • Introducing themselves – je m’appelle…
  • Most of the “bonjour” song -
  • Describing colours and different objects of different colours using the right word order
  • Saying what they like/don’t like – j’aime/j’aime pas
  • Counting up to 10 and describing how many things they see using the right word order – trois petits chats gris
  • The number song -
  • Describing what they are doing using “je” as long as they are walking, running, sleeping, jumping, eating, swimming, singing, turning (je marche, je cours, je dors… etc)
  • Listening and understanding prompts with all the above and respond to them
  • The firework song
  • “Je parle français” – a song made up to the tune of Frère Jacques
  • Monsieur Pouce – they can tell the story with the actions
  • Bateau sur l’eau – another song to sing in pairs while rocking your boat

J’aime papa, j’aime maman song -

What children will learn in Year 1

By the end of Year 1, communication will have taken on a new dimension; not only will they be able to describe what they are doing but also where they are doing this (eg: je mange à la maison/ je regarde un film au cinéma/ je nage à la piscine… etc). They should also be able to spot silly sentences if they are told “je dors à la piscine” or “je saute au cinéma” for example. They will learn about toys and know how to ask for something in a shop. They will shop for fruits and vegetables and distinguish known vocabulary in a French account of Peppa Pig at the shop ( We will take this opportunity to practice using Euros and counting them. While working on the fruits and vegetables topic, the children will learn a new song: . We will learn the bonjour song ( and sing the whole song with only some signing as prompts. The children also tend to enjoy singing “les petits poisons” ( too and we will practice “Je parle français”, our song to the tune of Frère Jacques, “Monsieur Pouce” and the number song which they learned in Reception.

Lastly, it is important they can shop for you in case you are planning a trip to France in the summer! The children will learn to order things (“Je voudrais… S’il vous plait”), greet and say how they feel (Je suis content/contente/pas content/contente using the appropriate forms of the adjectives as they will be introduced to the idea of genders of French words!

The lovely thing is their growing confidence at using French; it becomes second nature for most of them.” Nathalie

What children will learn in Year 2

Year 2 will have already learnt a lot of French from their Reception and Year 1 classes and we will expand their vocabulary and competences to not only say what they like but also what they have or what they are.

They will learn how to say their age, what siblings they have, what animals they have, whether they are feeling hot, cold, tired or what they are like (grand/petit/bavard/sportif/fort/intelligent/stupide using the adjective in the right gender as they are aware of the use of masculine/feminine words in French). As well as all the old songs, we will learn new ones such as “la tête, épaules, les genous et les pieds” as part of our topic on body parts and “y'avait de gros crocodiles” when learning the names of wild animals (most of which are cognates)

I have to say that one thing I love with Year 2 is entering the classroom and finding the children instantly trying out the questions they know or made up to try their French (eg: ça va?/j’aime le bleu, et toi?/Je suis fatigué… etc) or asking for some vocabulary in French which they have not yet learned. Well done to all and I hope you can go to a French speaking country in the summer to witness the children interacting in French.” Nathalie

What children will learn in Year 3

In Year 3, the curriculum suggests that the children are exposed to the written language. We will therefore revisit all the vocabulary they have learned so far and look at the spelling of the words they had only heard up to now. The children will start a new French book where they will work on worksheets for a part of their lesson and they will also work with Nathalie in small groups so that they get more of a chance to contribute their speaking. As we recap what they know, we take the opportunity to encourage them to use more complex structures and more elaborate vocabulary. The main idea is to develop both their confidence and their spontaneity at speaking and give them the tools to potentially communicate with a French child their own age.

What children will learn in Year 4

By the time the children reach Year 4 they will have acquired a fair amount of vocabulary from the previous years. We continue to ensure that they feel confident using it in role play and conversations, talking about themselves or their family and friends. We have many new songs to learn too and will continue to sing together. We also review the spelling of the more familiar words they have learnt and look more specifically at French phonics. They will also work on writing some of those words from memory. The children will enjoy making up their own sentences over the year. Alongside this, they will be encouraged to do more independent research to develop a better intercultural understanding and share their findings with the others. They are becoming real French specialists.