Prima Lingua Celebrates 20 years

Prima Lingua was created by Margaret Roberts, a Latin and Linguistics teacher who found that many of her incoming students were unprepared for learning a foreign language, primarily because of their lack of understanding of the grammatical underpinnings of our own English language. She found that before she could begin teaching her students a second language, she had to give them a better grasp of how all languages work—the generic basics of grammar, syntax, derivatives and the like. Only then were they ready to begin understanding what sets most world languages apart from English—such factors as gender, adjective-noun agreement, and word order. She also found that her students learned better when they had an awareness of the historical relationships between languages and the social contexts in which they arise. She also knew that students learn best when they’re having fun.

Margaret formalized the program that would become Prima Lingua at the Springside School (now Springside Chestnut Hill Academy) in suburban Philadelphia in 1993. Encouraged by the results, she turned her own classroom course into a workbook and teacher’s manual. As the word spread among her fellow language teachers, the program has been adopted by schools across the United States. The online component of Prima Lingua with accompanying games and activities was created by Colin Angevine, fellow language and computer science teacher. They are now frequent presenters at conferences ranging from ACTFL, NECTFL, ACL, and PCS to NECC and ISTE. They also run annual training workshops in the summer for teachers.

This year, celebrating the 20th anniversary, Prima Lingua steps into an exciting new format. Students and teachers will have access to the entire course online. Two years of work by Colin Angevine and Colin Roberts will now open up a new dimension to the connections that we make through language study.