From EL Gazette, February 2009
THE FIRST interim report of the gigantic European Commission-sponsored ElliE report on the early adopting of foreign language learning in European primary schools is out. (See the July 2008 Gazette, p1 and 5.) This first stage concentrates on children aged seven to eight across schools in Poland, Italy, Croatia, Holland, Sweden, England and the Catalan region of Spain. The foreign language they are learning is in most cases English.
The report found that children are highly motivated for learning a foreign language at this age, are aware of their language abilities and show strong preferences for what sort of language learning environment they learn in. The study found a great emphasis on oral production in language teaching aimed at this age group. Children of the target age group could already ‘produce meaningful chunks of language such as greetings and responses,’ and the vocabulary they were producing contained more nouns than verbs. School principals, teachers and the children’s parents are keen on the children starting to learn languages early.
A positive learning environment, access to a variety of materials were among the factors helping the students’ progress and motivation. The report noted a big variation from country to country in requirements for language proficiency among primary school language teachers.
The next phase of the research will concentrate on ages 8 to 9, with a report due out in the final days of 2009.