Developing speaking skills in the MFL classroom

Author: Wendy Adeniji
Published: 06/09/2020

The skill of speaking is often seen as ‘the poor relation’ of language skills. It is more difficult to assess because it needs to take place one-to-one with each student. It is the exam that students fear most because it takes place in front of someone else and there’s no hiding place. It’s recorded and they have much less thinking time than in written exams.

Speaking in the classroom is also a challenge to manage, especially if it means that students are allowed to speak in pairs and in groups, which might mean that the classroom is less tightly controlled. However, if planned carefully and managed well, the skill of speaking can be taught, modelled and practised in the classroom in ways that students find motivating and engaging.

The attached resource offers 20 activity ideas that will boost students’ confidence, promote spontaneity and give them the skills to memorise chunks of language. Here are five examples from this resource:

  1. Phoneme-grapheme links. Teach the difficult phonemes explicitly, ideally one per week. Practise them using common words containing the phonemes, with tongue twisters, rhymes and songs. Focus on the grapheme or graphemes that represent the phonemes.

  2. Rhyme, rap and sing. An effective way to focus on particular phonemes is to ask students to listen to a song and do a tally of the rhymes they hear. Use YouTube clips of songs with lyrics to encourage MFL karaoke. Sites like can help students create their own rhyming raps or chants on a topic.

  3. Pronunciation websites. Encourage students to copy and paste words and phrases into a pronunciation website, like or They will then hear the language correctly and can work on imitating a correct model when memorising the phrases.

  4. Common mispronunciations. When students do speaking practice or a test with you, note any words they mispronounce on a feedback sheet, highlighting tricky phonemes. Ask students to stick this in their books and to work on improving their pronunciation before their next speaking task.

  5. Listening before speaking. Create listening activities based on model speaking answers. Students need to be used to listening to the type of language they will need to use productively. Remember that understanding comes before producing language.

    Download all 20 teaching ideas for improving speaking skills.
Wendy Adeniji

Wendy Adeniji is a headteacher and MFL trainer.