An Illawarra primary school already teaching some of its students another language has welcomed proposals to expose all young students to a foreign tongue before they begin high school.
A languages advisory panel will consider proposals put forward by the Board of Studies to encourage greater uptake of languages in NSW schools.
Under the plans, language would become a key learning area in primary schools and bilingual primary teachers would be retrained as language teachers.
High school students would have to finish 100 hours of language studies during years 7 and 8 and collaboration between schools and community language providers would be increased.
Warrawong Public School has been running a Macedonian class for interested students for several years, with around 40 students currently taking part. Languages are not currently compulsory for NSW primary schools, but between 30 and 40 per cent have a language program.
Principal Wayne Farquhar said the students, the majority of whom come from a Macedonian background, found the classes beneficial and thought getting all primary students to learn another language would have a positive impact.
"The students here find it very valuable because they also learn about Macedonian culture," he said.
"I think it's easier for students to pick up language when they're younger.
"It also helps to broaden the children's view of the world."
Mr Farquhar acknowledged it may be challenging for schools to fit language studies into an already busy curriculum, but said allowing flexibility in how the classes were delivered would benefit most schools.
This will be the first time NSW has had a formal languages policy for schools, which ties in with a federal government target of getting 40 per cent of high school students to study a foreign language within a decade.
Languages are currently electives for year 9 and 10 students, and only 10 per cent of last year's HSC students pursued one of the 34 languages that were on offer.
The advisory panel will report back to Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who said students who speak a language other than English at home should be encouraged to develop these skills at school.