Lourdes Barquín Sanmartín is based at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on how learning French first and Spanish second can benefit students’ overall progress. She has a background as a Spanish teacher in British schools, where French is learnt first and Spanish second. Lourdes believes that the similarities between French and Spanish can boost the learning of Spanish as a third language and, thus, improve British students’ overall attitude towards foreign languages and different cultures.
Recent publications from the British education inspector, Ofsted, and the British Council have shown a very gradual but stable growth in the number of secondary schools teaching Spanish and students choosing Spanish for their official examinations. Nevertheless, despite the increasing interest for Spanish at secondary level, French remains the predominant language in primary schools in England, which means that most year 6 students transitioning from primary to secondary school will have already studied French before starting year 7, regardless of the language taught in their chosen secondary school.
In Scotland, the ‘1+2 Approach’ policy that the Scottish Government put in place in 2016 aims to promote the learning of both a second language and a third language at an earlier stage in primary education, giving greater exposure to Spanish. This policy is a clear response to today’s multilingual society and supports Unesco’s objective to foster linguistic and cultural diversity within the academic setting world-wide. This is not only to promote professional, academic, and economic prospects for future generations, but also to foster values of acceptance and tolerance for different cultures and languages.
Based on the data that has been published from institutions mentioned above, we can argue that most British schools are teaching French first and Spanish second. As a PhD researcher, I am interested in how the order in which French and Spanish are studied affects the learner and whether a previous knowledge of French can help students who are starting to learn Spanish.