PLANS to improve foreign language teaching in Scotland are being hampered because most television programmes watched by children are in English, according to a Government minister.

Alasdair Allan, Scotland's Minister for Learning, made the claim as he gave evidence to MSPs on the SNP's language strategy for primary school pupils.

The Scottish Government wants to see every primary school pupil taught two languages in addition to their own by 2020.

The model would see children start learning their first foreign language in P1, followed by a second language in P5.

However, critics argue the plan is unachievable because of scarce resources and insufficient training for teachers. Mr Allan told the Scottish Parliament's European Committee that the importance of languages could not be under-estimated.

He said: "I believe the case for more language learning is pretty self-evident. An ability and a willingness to pick up other languages is hugely beneficial to young people, both culturally and economically in their future lives. There's plenty of evidence multilingual young people have a competitive advantage in the jobs markets."

Mr Allan said attitudes were beginning to change, with pupils more used to hearing other languages in the street and on holiday abroad.

However, he added: "Where it falls down is the fact much of television is American .... and in English."

The minister went on to defend the plans to teach two foreign languages to primary pupils, although he accepted it would present a significant challenge for schools.

He said: "Delivering additional languages from primary one is a bold and ambitious objective.

"There will be significant challenges for schools, but it can be done and some schools are already providing such early access to language learning. As a Government we recognise an earlier start to language learning may be something that raises challenges in terms of schools' capacity to deliver.

"Some teachers may not have language training. Others may wish to update those skills."

In an earlier submission to the committee, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council cast serious doubts over the policy.

Its submission stated: "While we agree with the principle of widening the experience of languages for primary school pupils, we have grave concerns the resource implications have not been considered sufficiently.

"This will require teachers in primary school to hold appropriate qualifications in language teaching.

"This is currently not the case and will require a substantial investment and significant time to make this a reality."