Prima Lingua was created by Margaret Somerville, 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 Prima Lingua team has presented at conferences ranging from ACTFL, NECTFL, ACL, and PCS to NECC and ISTE. They also run annual training workshops in the summer for teachers. Contact for details.