'Learn a new language from age of seven' 'Trilingual Wales' plans.
PUPILS in Welsh primary schools should be offered foreign language lessons from the age of seven, it is claimed today.
The move to create a 'trilingual nation' would also boost English and Welsh skills, according to proposals by Welsh Conservatives.
The party is launching a consultation on its ideas to foster skills in a foreign language which it says will improve literacy and confidence among young pupils.
A modern foreign language is compulsory only from the age of 11 in Welsh secondary schools and pupils can drop the subject aged 14.
But the number of GCSE entries for French has halved since 1999 to 5,905, while entrants for German dropped by 60% to just 1,376.
The party said it plans to consult on options for other languages in addition to the most popular French and German and how teaching Shadow minister could be incorporated into primary teacher training.
Shadow education minister Angela Burns said: "Welsh school leavers are regrettably trailing their European counterparts in foreign language skills and the gap is growing. In an increasingly competitive economy, we need to ensure that young people are equipped with the skills they need to pursue a successful career and to help make Wales a more prosperous nation.
"Considerable evidence shows that the younger a child is when they are exposed to foreign languages, the greater their capacity for language learning."
education Burns Children in other EU nations begin foreign language learning at a far younger age than in Wales, such as Belgium where they are compulsory from eight in some regions, France aged six to eight and Spain eight to 10, but earlier in some regions.
In Sweden, another language is compulsory from 9 or 10 and a second foreign language is usually introduced at 12.
"In Wales, we start teaching foreign languages at 11 - far later than many EU nations, where learning foreign languages in primary school is the norm," Mrs Burns said. "Welsh Conservatives want Wales to become a trilingual nation, where every primary school child has the option to study a foreign language, alongside both Welsh and English."
Suzy Davies, the shadow minister for the Welsh Language, said: "Language learning has been in dramatic decline in Wales and now barely one in four students studies a foreign language at GCSE. We are setting out how Wales, already well on the way to becoming a truly bilingual nation, can learn from other EU countries and set the example for the rest of the UK," she said.
Plaid Cymru outlined similar proposals in the run up to the 2011 Assembly elections.
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Shadow education minister Angela Burns