A national scheme to train primary staff in language teaching is being piloted in six areas.
The scheme for existing staff follows a programme for student primary teachers, which is now in its third year.
The new in-service scheme, funded by the Teacher Training Agency, has begun at Ca More…nterbury Christ Church University College, where 30 primary teachers are learning how to teach French. Next term, Manchester Metropolitan, Sunderland, Southampton, Newcastle and Durham universities and the college of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, will also begin courses.
The Canterbury course consists of an all-day session and then 11 or 12 after-school sessions over one term. Durham has teamed up with St Bede's RC school, a specialist language secondary in Lanchester which will lead its course.
Maureen Bates, head of St Bede's, said: "We're really excited to be part of it. Our 11 partner primaries are already teaching languages in Year 6. We hope to get languages started in their reception classes in January."
Inspectors earlier this month criticised the fact that many students on primary placements had to introduce after-school clubs to get a chance to practise teaching languages.
Hugh Baldry, head of initial teacher training partnership, at the Teacher Training Agency, said: "We were quite surprised at how many primary teachers had some linguistic skills. These teachers are willing to teach languages, but need more support."
Ministers want every junior-aged child to be given the chance to learn a language at school and every primary school to have a skilled language teacher by 2010.