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teaching young learners


Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214823.1999.x


Teaching foreign languages to young learners (aged 8 or younger) is becoming widespread throughout the world, with many countries having started the practice in recent years. Howatt (1991) provides a historical perspective. In the second half of this century, the FLES (Foreign Languages in the Elementary School) movement was developed in America from the 1950s with Andersson's (1953) book being a particularly eloquent plea for an early start to language learning. But research undertaken in the 1960s questioned the practice, and was influential in delaying primary level foreign language teaching in many places. This research ( Burstall et al., 1974 ) involved teaching French in Britain at the primary level, to a total of approximately 17,000 8-year-old pupils (spread over a number of years). The tuition continued into the secondary school, so that all pupils learned the language for an uninterrupted five years. Evaluation of the scheme took place over a period of ten years (1964–74). The aims of this reserch were various, and included investigation of the effect of pupil variables such as age and socioeconomic status. Burstall (1980) provides a useful summary of the project and its findings. In relation to the early start issue she observes that: ‘the older children tended to learn French more efficiently than the younger ones did. Pupils taught French from the age of eight did ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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