The reading approach to learning Latin is a highly structured one that focuses on a single lesson format that is repeated, with each lesson becoming gradually more difficult. This approach to Latin gives children an unseen text which is then translated. This leads to a very specific set of skills being learnt. Translating is an active skill which gives the learner a very precise set of transferable ones, such as drawing inferences and puzzle solving. The Cambridge Latin course is one example of the reading method and due to it being a story telling course it gives pupils a knowledge of Latin’s history and the culture surrounding it from the very beginning. Unfortunately, neither problem solving nor historical knowledge will especially help in improving a pupil’s literacy, at least, no more than any other school class might. The literacy skills come second in the reading approach with the grammar of a text being looked at afterwards. Like all other approaches this one will undoubtedly improve a child’s literacy but it does not focus on it and, due to the rigidity of the course’s structure, it would be difficult to adapt so that English literacy was the primary goal. It is also, perhaps, too structured to be useful in the primary classroom.
The MFL approach is completely different. Rather than focusing on a single method of transferring information to the children it allows for a more varied syllabus. One benefit of a varied structure is that pupils remain more engaged. Indeed, a QCA report on children’s responses to MFL learning were that ‘primary pupils are generally very enthusiastic about their primary MFL experiences and young children enjoy MFL because it appears to them to be more fun than other subjects.’Alongside this, The MFL approach allows a teacher more flexibility with the lesson so that it can be tailored towards a final goal that isn’t solely the learning of Latin. An MFL lesson can be designed to directly target a specific grammatical issue, such as learning imperatives through a command game, or learning adjectives through a song. Another benefit of this approach over the reading approach is that pupils are usually given an example of how a concept works in English before they are asked to approach it in Latin. This means that the pupils are using a familiar grammatical concept in a new way, letting them see it from a new angle and reinforcing it. MFL teaching is designed so as to avoid giving pupils a mental block towards a language by making it fun and accessible something which is extra important when the goal is teaching them English grammar.
Overall, the MFL approach does offer a greater scope for teaching Literacy through Latin. It is more flexible in terms of lesson planning and is a method that naturally reinforces English grammar. Younger children are also more likely to respond well to a varied curriculum which means they will be more engaged with the lessons and less likely to form a mental block when it comes to both learning the language, and perhaps more importantly, learning English grammatical concepts.
 C Kirsch, Teaching Foreign Languages in the Primary School, (Continuum International Publishing, 2008), p. 49.
 Nesbitt-Larking Nicholas, 'Teaching Modern Languages in Primary Schools', Group Report, (2007), p. 6.
 Marilyn Hunt, 'Primary Modern Foreign Languages: An Overview of Recent Research, Key Issues and Challenges for Educational Policy and Practice', University of Warwick, (2005), p. 5.
Written by Michael Flynn