27 SES 08 B, Learning and Teaching Foreign Language
By 2011, learning a foreign language will be an entitlement for every Key Stage 2 child (aged seven to eleven years old) attending a primary school in England (DCSF, 2008). The implementation of languages learning for pupils from the age of 7 in England reflects the drive across Europe to improve multilingualism and intercultural competence in schooling and in the workplace (DfES, 2005). The scale of this implementation in England should not be underestimated: it will affect approximately 18000 primary schools and almost 2.5 million children.
The introduction and continued provision of languages education to young learners presents specific challenges to many schools irrespective of the language(s) taught, such as teacher expertise and progression of learning. This paper reports some of the key findings from a recently-completed three-year longitudinal study which was commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and conducted by the Open University, the University of Southampton and Canterbury Christ Church University. The project’s key objectives were: to investigate how a sample of primary schools in England are building capacity to provide languages learning at Key Stage 2; to examine teaching approaches and teachers’ perceptions of effective practice as well as their attitudes towards teaching languages; to assess pupil achievement and progression in languages and across the curriculum and to explore their attitudes towards learning languages and about other cultures.
There is a need to investigate the teaching approaches being employed in primary schools and the subsequent impact of this provision on seven-to-eleven year old children’s developing knowledge and understanding of the target language (linguistic and cultural), in and across each of the four years. Approaches to teaching languages vary across England (Muijs et al., 2005) as they do across Europe (Edelenbos et al., 2006). Teachers adapt and represent their knowledge appropriately for the age, stage and interests of learners. This investigation is therefore timely as it documents how teachers are delivering languages and their perceptions of ‘what works’ and ‘why’. Equally, the impact of languages learning on children’s achievement and progression as well as on their dispositions towards languages learning and the development of their intercultural awareness are of particular relevance if early languages provision is to build a solid foundation for future learning. Its significance is further marked by recent research which has reported a decline in the uptake of languages learning in secondary schools in England (e.g. CILT, 2005; Canning, 2008).
Birdsong, D. (2005). Interpreting age effects in second language acquisition. In J. F. Kroll & A. M. B. de Groot (Eds.), Handbook of Bilingualism: Psycholinguistic approaches. New York: Oxford University Press, 109-127. Byram, M. (1997). Teaching and Assessing Intercultural Communicative Competence. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. Canning, J. (2008) Five years on. The language landscape in 2007. Southampton: Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies. CILT (2005) Languages in Key Stage 4. London: The National Centre for Languages. DCSF (2008) The Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum. The Interim Report. Accessed at http://publicatiosn.teachernet.gov.uk on 20th December, 2008. DfES (2005) The Key Stage 2 Framework for Languages. London: Department for Education and Skills. Donato, R, and Tucker, G. (2007). K–12 language learning and foreign language educational policy: A school-based perspective. The Modern Language Journal 91: 256-258. Driscoll, P., Jones, J., Martin, C., Graham-Matheson, L., Dismore, H. and Sykes, R. (2004b). A Systematic Review of the Characteristics of Effective Foreign Language Teaching to Pupils between the Ages 7 and 11. London: EPPI-Centre, Institute of Education, University of London. Edelenbos.P., Johnstone, R. and Kubanek-German, A. (2006). Languages for the Children of Europe: Published research, good practice and main principles. Brussels: European Commission. Also available at http://ec.europa.eu/education/policies/lang/doc/young_en.pdf. Mitchell, R. (2003). Rethinking the concept of progression in the National Curriculum for Modern Foreign Languages: a research perspective. Language Learning Journal 27: 15-23. Muijs, D., Barnes, A., Hunt, M., Powell, B., Arweck, E., Lindsay, G. and Martin, C. (2005). Evaluation of the Key Stage 2 Language Learning Pathfinders. London: DfES. Nikolov, M. and Djigunovic, J.M. (2006). Recent research on age, second language acquisition, and early foreign language learning. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 26: 234-60. Young, A. and Helot, C. (2003). Language awareness and/or language learning in French primary schools today. Language Awareness 12 (3): 234-246.
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