The Specification for Junior Cycle Modern Foreign Languages is designed for a minimum of 200 hours of timetabled student engagement, and is organised around three integrated strands
1. Communicative competence
2. Language awareness
3. Socio-cultural knowledge and intercultural awareness.
Students’ language learning is actively supported when their Communicative competence, Language awareness and Socio-cultural knowledge and intercultural awareness are developed in an integrated way.
Integrated teaching and learning
While the learning outcomes associated with each strand are set out separately in this specification, this should not be taken to imply that the strands are to be studied in isolation. Students’ engagement and learning are optimised by a fully integrated experience of Communicative competence, Language awareness, Socio-cultural knowledge and intercultural awareness. Likewise, grammar, syntax and pronunciation have been embedded so these aspects of language learning are taught in a communicative context.
These strands are each further broken down into elements and the learning outcomes associated with each element are also specified.
Communicative competence is concerned with developing students’ ability to communicate meaningfully in the target language. This strand incorporates five elements, representing the five language skills of listening, reading, spoken production, spoken interaction and writing.
Language awareness enhances the students’ general awareness about languages, and incorporates the three elements of reflecting on how the target language works, comparing the target language with other languages students know, and reflecting on their own language-learning strategies
Socio-cultural knowledge and intercultural awareness, gives students access to new cultural dimensions and encourages them to reflect on their own culture. The three elements of this strand develop students’ knowledge of the countries and cultures related to the target languages, and enable them to make comparisons with their own country and culture.
The Primary Language Curriculum (2015) is an integrated curriculum, with the same curriculum structure and components for Irish and English. It recognises that developing skills in one language will help children to develop skills in another language. It seeks to develop not only communicative competence in English and Irish, but also a lifelong interest in and love of language learning for personal enjoyment and enrichment. It aims to nurture in children an awareness of language and an appreciation of the content and structure of language. While the main focus is on meaningful communication, and children are taught through the target language, there is also provision for explicit teaching of form, including certain features of grammar. The curriculum aims to help children become motivated, autonomous learners of language. All these features of the Primary Language Curriculum sit well with the rationale and aims of the Specification for Junior Cycle Modern Foreign Languages and build a good foundation for students’ learning of additional languages in junior cycle and beyond. Similarly, students whose mother tongue is other than English or Irish will have skills on which to build an awareness of language and its structure that they will be able to apply when they undertake a MFL in junior cycle.
As students progress from junior cycle to senior cycle, they are afforded many opportunities to build on their previous language-learning experiences. For many, these opportunities begin in Transition Year, where students may further explore the language and associated cultures which they have studied in junior cycle and/or experience learning a new language. Students who choose to study a modern foreign language for Leaving Certificate will benefit from the continuity and close alignment between the three junior cycle strands and the Leaving Certificate behavioural objectives of Basic communicative proficiency, Language awareness and Cultural awareness. Building on the learning outcomes of junior cycle MFL, the Leaving Certificate syllabuses aim to further develop learner autonomy and to help students develop strategies for effective language learning. In addition, the learning of a modern foreign language is integral to both the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA).