Fostering a passion for Languages through Physical Education

Penny Lamb, Craig Avieson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Research Aims
The learning of a foreign language is an integral part of school curricula around the world. The benefits are universal, both individually and to society. This poster reports on a small-scale case study in a rural co-educational Languages and Sport specialist school in eastern England. The aim was to explore how Physical Education might offer an avenue of developing interest in French and foster children's intrinsic motivation to study it.

All Year 7 pupils (n = 87: males =49, female = 38) completed a six week introductory unit of work on Handball in Physical Education lessons. Concurrently, in French lessons they learnt key vocabulary associated with the sport. The finale was an inter-house handball tournament involving everyone, either as players, managers, coaches, captains, officials or publicity officers. The main stipulation during the preparation and delivery phases was that all communication was conducted in French. Data was collected through a multi-method approach of semi-structured focus group interviews and questionnaires. Eight separate group interviews were conducted after the tournament: four groups of players (n = 25), two groups of spectators (n = 7), two groups of officials and publicity officers (n = 11). Additionally, individual interviews with the French and PE teacher and 87 pupil questionnaires (49 male and 38 female) were completed.

Findings and conclusions
The project was very successful in engaging children in developing their French speaking and listening skills. Six key themes emerged that appeared to influence this: Gender, Experiential learning, Social benefits, Inclusion, Speaking and listening and Interest and enjoyment. 80% of children suggested that they did not enjoy learning French at primary school whilst 63% of males and 66% of females reported they had enjoyed learning French in Year 7. 59% of children suggested that applying French to handball increased their confidence in speaking and listening skills, alongside their enjoyment. The increase in confidence and enjoyment of speaking French was most significant in boys who much preferred the opportunity to apply their knowledge whilst playing handball, rather than when in the classroom. Girls placed more importance to the social aspect when playing handball and associated roles, with everyone involved and being encouraged to communicate with each other in French. Creative methods of engaging pupils in learning a language through the use of immediate resources such as other subject areas can motivate and capture pupil interest. Physical Education as the vehicle for learning can promote a passion for languages, particularly for boys.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014
EventAssociation for Physical Education (afPE) National Conference - Enstone, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Jul 20125 Jul 2012


ConferenceAssociation for Physical Education (afPE) National Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Physical Education
  • Modern Foreign Languages
  • Experiential learning

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