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 children will learn in Reception 

Reception children are so engaged and open to the idea of learning a new language. We aim to start French lessons in the second term, once they are settled in their Reception class. They initially have about 20 minutes per week and learn greetings and little songs and stories.

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” when 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 responding 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
What children will learn in Year 1

In Year 1, the children get 30 minutes of French per week. 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). Their understanding of the language is such that they should also be able to spot silly sentences if they are told “je dors à la piscine – I sleep at the swimming pool” or “je saute au cinema – I jump around at the cinema” for example. They will learn about toys and know how to ask for something in a shop (“je voudrais… svp”). They will shop for fruits and vegetables and can 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 – “j’aime les fruits”: . We will learn the bonjour song ( and sing the whole song. The children also tend to enjoy singing “les petits poissons” ( too and we will practice “Je parle français”, our song to the tune of Frère Jacques, as well as the “J’aime papa, j’aime maman” song ( and the “Bateau sur l’eau” song, the “Monsieur Pouce” story 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 rehearse how to buy things -at least an ice cream- (“Bonjour monsieur/madame/Je voudrais… S’il vous plaît”), 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

In Year 2, the children continue to have 30 minutes of French per week. By then, they 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. At that stage, it is also important to recap every week the known vocabulary through games and role plays.

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/fatigué 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, les épaules, les genoux et les pieds” as part of our topic on body parts (they will be able to say where it hurts if they need to) and “y'avait de gros crocodiles” when learning the names of wild animals (most of which are cognates, words which look the same in English and French). They also learn to say which transport they use. We usually also touch on the vocabulary relevant to the term’s topic where possible.

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 therefore revisit all the vocabulary they have learned so far and start looking at the spelling of some words they had only heard up to now. By now the children seem very able at reading familiar words such as the colour or number words. The focus is not so much on writing as it is on recognising common phonics (sounds) in French. They learn the French alphabet  and sing it ( and we play hangman or recognising their spelt names. They start a new French book where they stick worksheets they completed with their teachers. This is alongside their weekly lesson with Nathalie. As we recap what they already 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. They are therefore encouraged to ask questions in class or through role plays and we learn new songs such as “J’ai faim, je mange” (

What children will learn in Year 4

By the time the children reach Year 4 they have acquired a fair amount of vocabulary from the previous years. We continue to ensure that they feel confident using it in games role play and conversations, talking about themselves or their family and friends. We have new songs (including a number song going up to 50 ( to learn too and continue to sing together. We also review the spelling of the more familiar words they have learnt and look more specifically at French phonics. In the process, Y4 gets to read words too. The children learn the days of the week and they can write the date in French. We learn about family members and il/elle (he/she) to talk about them. The children enjoy making up their own sentences and develop a good feel for this activity over the year. In year 4, we start making longer sentences - eg: je vais en France en avion and contrasting views (using “mais” (but). Alongside this, we look at French customs to develop a better intercultural understanding and satisfy their curiosity. They are becoming real French specialists. Towards the end of the year, the children are ready to learn a French poem too!

What children will learn in Year 5

In Year 5, most of the instructions in the French class are given in French initially when doing activities so that the children are in the conditions they would be in if they were in France so they have ample opportunities to infer meaning of unknown words. We do need to constantly recap previously studied vocabulary but it is now generally put in context. For example, we no longer say “Je vais en France en bateau” (I go to France by boat), we say “Je vais en France en bateau avec ma famille” (I go to France by boat with my family. We also spend more time reading material where there are more unknown words which the children can work out with the context. The sentences used include more grammar with word games played in pairs. Expanding vocabulary includes sets of vocabulary to describe where things are, weather, our town/house, explaining opinions etc.

In Y5 children also become more familiar with reading short postcards/emails written in French and work out what the information on it is about. They will also try to write their own!