Stages 4 and 5

Through learning languages, students engage in purposeful communication and reflect on the heritage, culture and identity of themselves and others. The study of one or more additional languages strengthens literacy skills in a student’s first language, and supports participation in the global community.

Language study in Stages 4 and 5

The study of 100 hours of one language over one continuous 12-month period is mandatory between Years 7-10, but preferably in Years 7-8 (Stage 4).

Students may also elect a language course in Stage 5.

In Stage 5, students extend their ability to communicate and strengthen their understanding of the nature of language, culture and the processes of communication.

Students may continue with their chosen language/s in Stage 6, and/or commence the study of a new language. View the Stage 6 section for more information.

Join us in our virtual statewide staffroom

Our virtual statewide staffroom has over 550 language teachers connecting with each other – asking questions, and sharing ideas and resources. You can also access direct support from the Languages and Culture team and search over 280 teacher-contributed resources for Stages 4-6.

You can access our staffroom through Yammer, the Department of Education's social media platform, under 'My applications' in the portal.

Search for the Languages NSW (7-12) group and then simply join the group.

Programming in Stages 4 and 5

A program is all of the documents involved in the overall planning for each language and Stage/year that you teach.

Our programming guidelines (DOCX 193KB) will guide you through everything you need to know about quality programming in languages 7-10.

Visit our professional learning page if you'd like to enrol in our syllabus familiarisation and planning eCourse.

NESA also provides advice on programming.

Sample templates can be accessed below, which can be modified to suit your context and any requirements set by your school. We also recommend you look at the resources across a range of languages (via the left-hand menu) which deliberately take different formats to broaden your layout options. NESA's sample resources provide other options to consider.

Our backward mapping tool (PDF 219KB) which can be used to plan your units of work.

Image of backward mapping tool
Image: Backward mapping tool

All K-10 language syllabuses (2017 and later) are underpinned by the Languages K-10 Framework. To access a range of language-specific support material, explore the languages through the left-hand menu. We recommend teachers browse all language resources as each offers a different layout, area of interest and form of assessment. Two of our sample unit starters are generic, and can be adapted for any language:


The K-10 language syllabuses focus on learning tasks, instead of on activities or exercises. In simple terms, activities and exercises are how students learn a language, for example vocabulary and grammar drills, cloze passages and games. A task, on the other hand, involves the purposeful use of language, achieving a devised or actual purpose or goal. Learning tasks are how students can showcase their learning and experiment with new forms. The focus is on the authentic use of language, through authentic communication.

Compare these 2 examples:

  • When students read a weather map and answer true/false or short-answer questions, this is an activity, as it is not linked to a purpose and the language use is not authentic.
  • When students listen to a weather report on the radio and then use this information to decide their plans for the weekend with a friend, this would be considered a task.

Authentic communication has:

  • a purpose
  • a context
  • an audience.

To share great examples with you, we have identified our top 10 favourite assessment tasks, submitted by teachers at our programming workshops or via our eCourse. We've also included a short paragraph or 2 on why we love each task. You'll notice each one:

  • focuses on authentic communication
  • assesses a range of outcomes
  • combines 2 or more macro skills.


Feedback is one of the most powerful influences on student achievement. Feedback that focuses on improving tasks, processes and student self-regulation is the most effective (Source: What works best: 2020 update, Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, April 2020).

Effective feedback:
  • communicates your assessment of a student’s performance
  • stimulates students to reflect on their own learning
  • provides advice on future learning.

Feedback may include teacher feedback, peer feedback or a student’s own feedback, for example through a student learning journal. Learn more about each type of feedback via the links below.

Our online sample self-reflection guide for students is a useful and immediate resource that you can share with your students. The guide explores the purpose of self-reflection in student learning and includes examples of self-reflection questions based on language learning.

Screenshot of online student self-reflection tool
Image: Online student self-reflection tool

Learning across the curriculum

Learning across the curriculum content is incorporated in all new NSW syllabuses and identified by icons.

As you plan your learning experiences, include relevant learning across the curriculum content where it offers opportunities to add depth and richness to the content.

Information and communication technology capability

This curation of digital tools (DOCX 552KB) may support you in selecting appropriate tools to enhance your pedagogy.

The department has also developed a digital learning tool selector, which supports you to integrate ICT in your teaching practice. You can:

  • discover teaching and learning activities that embed ICT directly into your lessons
  • filter through a library of categorised activity pages
  • find information to support using the activity in your class.
  • adapt one of the available templates and you're ready to go
  • share learning activities and tools with your colleagues or create your own favourites list.

For example, if you want your students to collaborate using an online tool, the selector will show you a range of online tools which you could use, with tips on how to use each tool.

To learn more about online collaboration, access our TIPD module Languages and online collaboration from our professional learning page.

Intercultural understanding

Students develop intercultural understanding as they learn to value their own cultures, languages and beliefs, and those of others. They come to understand how personal, group and national identities are shaped, and the variable and changing nature of culture. Intercultural understanding involves students learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect.

The key ideas for intercultural understanding are organised into 3 interrelated elements:

  • recognising culture and developing respect
  • interacting and empathising with others
  • reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility

Source: Australian Curriculum

Intercultural communication – a languages view

Intercultural communication takes place whenever individuals or groups from different cultural or linguistic backgrounds share and exchange meaning in a manner that is influenced by their different cultural perceptions and symbol systems, both verbal and non-verbal.

In simple terms, intercultural communication is an active process. It happens when two or more people from differing backgrounds interact. It assumes the participant is involved in the interaction.

In contrast, intercultural understanding may not involve the participant in the interaction. It is a comparison of how people from different cultures interact with the world.

In languages, we are constantly reflecting on the role of language and culture in the exchange of meaning, and considering how interaction shapes communication and identity, through the role of language and culture objective.

Our intercultural communication website will support you in building this important capability in students, and includes:

  • an introduction to intercultural communication
  • the skills linked to effective intercultural communication
  • question cards to use with students
  • a range of lesson ideas.

You can also download the intercultural communicator poster for display in your classroom. By developing these skills in students, we are providing them with the vital tools needed to engage with and contribute to today’s increasingly diverse and complex world.

Image of intercultural communicator poster
Image: Intercultural communicator poster

Literacy and numeracy general support

Visit the literacy and numeracy section of this website to:

  • learn more about Literacy and Numeracy Strategy 2017-2020
  • access professional learning, including introduction to the literacy and numeracy progressions (face-to-face and online)
  • view a range of resources, including the national literacy and numeracy learning progressions and case studies.

Literacy in languages

The Literacy in languages video (7:19 minutes) supports you to explicitly teach literacy through your language lessons.

Video – Literacy in languages

Transcript – Literacy in languages (DOCX 15KB)

All teachers are responsible for supporting the literacy development of their students. Language learning enhances literacy skills through communication and developing an understanding of language as a system. For example:

  • when we develop students' speaking skills, they learn elements of oral literacy, like the use of intonation, tone, register, use of humour and so on
  • when we develop students' writing skills, they learn about types of texts, language techniques, audience, register and so on.

Support your students' literacy development by explicitly teaching literacy in your lessons.

Use the metalanguage associated with language – article, tense, gender, voice, adverb, compound noun, object, clause, gerund, relative pronoun and so on. When we empower students to talk about these concepts, we are also empowering them to be able to better communicate their understanding of English.

Modelled-guided-independent learning

Another key literacy strategy, especially to develop students' writing skills, is modelled-guided-independent learning. Student work samples from previous cohorts, which have been de-identified, can provide a rich bank of resources for this strategy.


Students are provided with a modelled text, for example an email from a travelling friend or a blog post about school.

Read the text with your students and deconstruct it, looking at the layout, the paragraphing, the vocabulary choices, the grammar and so on. What makes the text effective? What language devices has the author used? This is just as effective with a text that is not well written – students can identify the things which need improving.


Provide students with a scaffold to write their own text. This allows them to use the structures they have seen in the model text, whilst using familiar vocabulary and grammatical structures.


Students compose their own texts independently, bringing together everything they have learnt in the process.

Numeracy in languages

The Numeracy in languages video (7:40 minutes) supports teachers in embedding numeracy into their language lessons.

Video – Numeracy in languages

Transcript – Numeracy in languages (DOCX 15KB)

As with literacy, all teachers are responsible for supporting the numeracy development of their students. It's important the numeracy activities are age- and Stage-appropriate.

Sample numeracy activities

Support for head teachers

Our head teacher support document (DOCX 1.7MB) assists non-languages trained head teachers and executive who supervise teachers of languages. It is also essential reading for all language teachers 7-12 in NSW public schools.

The document provides comprehensive advice on:

  • the place of languages in the NSW curriculum
  • programs and pathways 7-12
  • K-10 curriculum structure
  • assessment and reporting
  • Stage 6 courses and eligibility requirements
  • resourcing and advocacy
  • where to access support.

Other options for language study

Saturday School of Community Languages

Saturday School of Community Languages offers students in Years 7-12 from government and non-government high schools the opportunity to study their background language if it is not available for study in their weekday school.

The school operates on Saturdays during the school term in 14 centres located in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle.

Distance education – single subject language provision

If a language is not available for study at a student's home school, students in Years 9-12 enrolled at either a government or non-government high school can study a language via distance mode learning through a specialist distance education school.

The NSW Department of Education has 5 distance education schools located across NSW which offer students in Years 9-12, subject to quota restrictions, the opportunity to study a language as a single subject if it is not available to study at their registered school.

The distance education schools providing single subject language provision:

Case studies – high schools with successful language programs

In 2017, the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation published case studies which highlight the school and classroom-based practices that 4 individual schools identify as contributing to their success in language participation.

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