The study of modern foreign languages enables students to build on their language learning in English and Irish in primary school and further develops their skills in and enjoyment of using languages. Language learning is accessible to all students and contributes to their cognitive, personal and social growth by enhancing their communicative and thinking skills, as well as their participation in a global society. Being able to communicate in the mother tongue and in foreign languages are also among the eight key competences for lifelong learning identified by the European Union and European Council in 2006.
Language learning develops students’ general language awareness. It enhances their ability to analyse how language works, to compare languages, and to reflect on how they learn languages. This has a positive effect on their first language skills and on future language learning.
In learning foreign languages, students are actively engaged in activities and tasks which integrate the five language skills of listening, reading, spoken production, spoken interaction and writing. As a result, they communicate with increasing independence, confidence and creativity. As learning is a social activity as well as a personal one and as communication is central to language, learning languages offers students ample opportunities to work with others to develop their language skills and achieve appropriate goals.
A fundamental feature of languages is that they give students access to new worlds and different ways of thinking. The resulting development of socio-cultural knowledge and intercultural awareness also enhances students’ cognitive development. By reflecting on other cultures and making comparisons they develop a deeper understanding of their own while appreciating diversity.
Language learning also broadens students’ horizons and enables them to develop a lifelong learning skill for education, leisure and work, and to develop a positive attitude towards other languages and cultures. Modern technologies play a key role in making language learning and language use increasingly more accessible and enjoyable for learners, by facilitating access to information and communication with people at a global level.
The society we live in has become multilingual. Ireland needs to increase its language capacity and to foster plurilingualism (a person’s ability to communicate in more than one language). While English is an international language, knowledge of other languages gives us cultural and competitive advantages.
Many studies attest to the benefits of bilingualism and plurilingualism. Students who have been exposed to language learning from an early age perform better than those who have not; not only in verbal skills, but also in mathematics. They display enhanced abilities in areas such as problem-solving, multi-tasking, creativity and pattern recognition.
Please note that this specification has been developed as a framework to be used for teaching junior cycle French, German, Italian and Spanish as modern foreign languages.
The language exponents provide a detailed example of how a teacher will use the specification to plan for teaching and learning.
 Recommendation 2006/962/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning [Official Journal L 394 of 30.12.2006].
 See García, Ofelia (2009). Bilingual Education in the 21st Century: A Global Perspective. Malden, MA and Oxford, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 93-108.