‘Learning a foreign language is a liberation from insularity and provides an opening to other cultures’. The opening statement from the programme of study sets out a vision of language learning that is ‘beyond words’. This conference will reflect on what constitutes a principled and considered approach to curriculum planning and design for primary languages. Using the three ‘i’s of the curriculum to interrogate practice, it will seek to ask important questions about what a ‘high-quality languages education’ should look like, and identify practical approaches to deal with the challenges faced by schools. It will also debate issues such as cross-curricularity versus subject integrity, the importance of inter-cultural understanding and why/how/if the study of a language should ‘deepen' [children's] understanding of the world.