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How to provide the best for a bilingual child in your class

You, like me, may have had to handle the situation where you have a bilingual child in your MFL class. They are probably fluent orally, have excellent listening and reading skills, but varying degrees of written skill. What can you do to make the most of their existing aptitude?

If they are there from the start of Y7 (first year of secondary schooling), then it may be wise to keep them in the classroom with their peers. They are settling in socially, making friends and may feel cut off if you send them elsewhere to study. If they are already established at the school, it may make sense to have them do the work you set elsewhere, as they may prefer silence, access to books or a computer. You could have a weekly meeting time, perhaps with the regular class to keep tabs on their work.

Most students are enthused by the prospect of taking exams early. Consult with the child and his or her parents to see if this will be motivational. GCSE could be done by the end of Y8, with the prospect of AS and A2 level by the end of Y11. You could consider an alternative programme such as Asset Languages, but these exams have less kudos than GCSE. A bilingual child will fly through GCSE, but will need specific guidance on controlled assessment and other examination techniques. Maybe you could pair up an A2 student with them to help and save you time. Make sure they are mature enough to handle A-level topics.

Once you have talked things through with your students and established what work they might benefit from, there is a range of possibilities (the suggested links are all on the Interactive Links page of
  • Provide texts with exercises to do (A-level standard).
  • Provide a menu of challenging online interactive grammar/reading tasks from sites such as Languagesonline, le-précepteur, Le Point du FLE and A vos plumes.
  • Suggest novels or non-fiction to read according to their existing interest and maturity. The student could write a book review or you could adapt existing resources you have used with A-level students.
  • Provide challenging sources of listening which will broaden their range and interests. Better to provide some structure to the task than just leaving the student to browse. Good sites include: Exercices de Français pour Etrangers, FranceTV Education, Universcience and Euronews.
  • Involve the student with the rest of the class. They could help with pairwork, give easy presentations, help you present dialogues like an assistant. There is no doubt that there is some advantage in your class hearing one of their peers speaking the foreign language.
  • The student might enjoy helping individual students with their work, even older ones. This would be good for their self-esteem, provide a useful service and be good experience for the bilingual student.
  • You could suggest that the student writes a blog for the rest of the class and their family to follow. This is really easy to set up with Blogger and you could even assess their work if you wanted to formalise things a bit.
  • You could set translation sentences or passages to do, both English-French and French-English.
  • You could attempt to find them an e-pal or traditional penpal, if they do not already have Facebook friends who speak the foreign language.
So all in all, there should be little problem finding a variety of interesting and challenging things for your bilingual pupil to do. They might also provide an opportunity for you and your colleagues to practise their skills.


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"Finally, a book for World Language teachers that provides practical ideas and strategies that can actually be used in the classroom, rather than dry rhetoric and theory that does little to inspire creativity in ways that are engaging for both students and teachers alike." (USA teacher, Amazon review)

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We were delighted to receive a review of The Language Teacher Toolkit from eminent applied linguist Ernesto Macaro from Oxford University. Macaro is a leader in the field of second language acquisition and applied linguistics. His main research interests are teacher-student interaction and language learning strategies pupils can use to improve their progress.

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