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Foreign Language Education

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Foreign Language Education

Foreign Language Education in

    Primary Schools (age 5/6 to 10/11)

Language Policies

Council of Europe Press, 1997

Foreign Language Education in

    Primary Schools (age 5/6 to 10/11)

edited by

Peter DOYÉ

    Technische Universität Braunschweig, Germany

Alison HURRELL

    Northern College of Education, Aberdeen, Scotland

Education Committee

Council for Cultural Co-operation

    The opinions expressed in this work are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Council for Cultural Co-operation of the Council of Europe.

    All correspondence concerning this publication or the reproduction or translation of all or part of the document should be addressed to the Director of Education, Culture and Sport of the Council of Europe (F-67075 Strasbourg Cedex).

    The reproduction of extracts is authorised, except for commercial purposes, on condition that the source is quoted.

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

    Peter DOYÉ and Alison HURRELL

1. OBJECTIVES AND CONTENTS

    Manuel Antonio TOST PLANET - Spain

2. METHODS

    Lisbeth YTREBERG - Norway

3. RESOURCES

    Rita BALBI - Italy

    Appendix 2 : List of supplementary materials

4. ORGANISATION, INTEGRATION AND CONTINUITY

    Hanna KOMOROWSKA - Poland

5. EVALUATION AND ASSESSMENT

    Peter EDELENBOS - Netherlands

6. TEACHER EDUCATION

    Maria FELBERBAUER - Austria

CONCLUSIONS

    Peter DOYÉ and Alison HURRELL

References

Bibliography

Profiles of the Contributors

Preface .................................................................................................................... 5

Introduction

    Peter DOYÉ (Germany) and Alison HURRELL (Scotland) ..................................... 7

    1 Objectives and contents

     Manuel TOST PLANET (Spain) .................................................................... 15

2 Methods

     Lisbeth YTREBERG (Norway) ...................................................................... 25

3 Resources

     Rita BALBI (Italy) ......................................................................................... 35

4 Organisation, integration and continuity

     Hanna KOMOROWSKA (Poland) ................................................................. 51

    5 Evaluation and assessment

     Peter EDELENBOS (Netherlands) ................................................................ 63

6 Teacher Education

     Maria FELBERBAUER (Austria) ................................................................... 77

Conclusions

    Peter DOYÉ and Alison HURRELL ..................................................................... 87

References ........................................................................................................... 98

    Bibliography ....................................................................................................... 99

Profiles of the Contributors ............................................................................... 103

     PREFACE

When launching the recent Council of Europe Modern Languages Project: 'Language

    learning for European citizenship' the Education Committee identified a number of

    educational sectors and themes for priority treatment. In the course of the Project, which was conducted between 1989 and 1997, work in these areas was intensively pursued, partly by studies commissioned from leading experts in the field, but mainly in a series of 'new-style' workshops, attended by colleagues professionally active in the fields concerned. These were nominated by member governments and worked together under the leadership of 'animators' selected by the Council of Europe from among the acknowledged leading experts in Europe.

    A 'new-style' workshop was held on the initiative of two co-operating member countries to deal with a theme identified by them as of particular importance. Each 'new-style' workshop had three phases. First, an initiating workshop of some five days' duration was held on the invitation of one member government. Here the aim was to establish the 'state of the art' in the sector or with regard to the theme, to identify areas in which further research and development work was needed, and then to set up an 'action programme' of projects to be carried out by individuals or institutions in two or more member countries under a project co-ordinator. In a second phase, this action programme was then conducted, normally over a two-year period, during which two Progress Reports on the conduct of the Projects were published. In a third phase, the outcomes of the Projects were reported by the Co-ordinators to a follow-up workshop, hosted by the second co-operating member government. Following the discussion of the projects and their products, the workshop concluded by setting out conclusions and recommendations regarding the general development of the field and future policy orientations.

    Many of the new-style workshops have dealt with more than one priority sector or theme, and some themes to which a number of governments attached importance were the subjects of a number of workshops. As a result, contributions relating to particular priority sectors and themes were spread over a number of workshop reports, progress reports and independent studies. In addition, constraints on workshop time and report space have placed strict limits on the animators' introductions to workshop themes. The Council of Europe has therefore decided to commission a series of Compendia, each of which would bring together a number of the more significant contributions made to the Project in respect of one of its major areas of concern. In a number of cases this meant leaving aside a number of valuable contributions for which room could not be found in the agreed format, especially since authors have been given the opportunity to develop and up-date their contributions.

    The teaching of modern languages to young children has been one of the focal points of the Project. Language provision in primary schools varies very widely across Europe.

    This is partly because school systems differ in the age at which compulsory education begins, and the terms used to label different forms and stages of earlier education. Again, the age of transition from primary to secondary education varies. Overall, we may be speaking of a sector which starts somewhere between 4 and 7 and ends between 8 and 15. Different interfaces may be present at age 6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14 or 15 according to the particular national systems concerned. Some countries (e.g. UK) maintain a number of different systems side-by-side. Accordingly, generalisations are hard to make and the question whether foreign languages should or should not be introduced into primary education may mean very different things according to the age-range of the children affected. In 1961, the Second Conference of European Ministers of Eduction in Hamburg requested the Council of Europe to investigate the advisability of an early start to language learning. Since that time expert opinion has been divided, initially polarised between those who believed that first language development would be damaged by the learning of a second language and others who held that there was a 'critical period' during which the plasticity of the young brain uniquely favoured language acquisition. Research (and experience) has not confirmed either position. Plurilingualism has been found to facilitate rather than disrupt the development of the mother tongue. In most respects, however, older learners appear to be more efficient than younger learners (except in respect of the 'naturalness' of speech). The issues are not, however, closed.

    In practice, national attitudes to early learning are a fairly sensitive indicator of the value placed on foreign language proficiency in the society concerned. Where proficiency in one or more foreign languages is felt to be essential to proper career development, parental pressure for an early start is very strong. If schools in the state education system do not provide it, or are not thought to be very effective, parents will pay for private teaching. A parallel system of out-of-school provision may develop and place increasing pressure on state provision. Where foreign language proficiency is not highly valued, however, curricular space is restricted, plurilingualism is resisted and the lowering of the starting age is held to be impracticable and a waste of resources.

    Inevitably, as the importance of foreign language proficiency has grown - and been seen to grow - in response to the revolution in communications and information technology and its impact on all aspects of modern living, continent-wide pressure for an earlier start has grown. It is not surprising that five member countries, UK (Scotland), France, Germany, Austria and Spain have offered workshops in this area and that the R&D projects carried out in inter-workshop action programmes have produced interesting and valuable results. The workshops, in one or other of which almost all member states were represented, have come firmly and unanimously to the conclusion that the lowering of the starting age is, educationally both desirable and feasible. The papers collected here by Peter Doyé and Alison Hurrell, both of whom played a valuable part in the series of workshops, will give some of the evidence on which this conclusion is based and will, we trust, be of practical help to practitioners in the field.

     John L.M. TRIM, Project Director

    INTRODUCTION

     Peter DOYÉ and Alison HURRELL

1. The European Context

From its inception, the Council for Cultural Cooperation (CDCC) has been concerned

    with the promotion of foreign language learning in its member states and has tried to

    support national initiatives for the improvement of foreign language education. In the

    1980s an extensive project entitled “Learning and teaching modern languages for

    communication“ (Project N?12) was conducted and produced valuable results. From

    1982 to 1988 a series of international workshops were held, where the key areas were

    lower secondary education, adult education and the education of migrants. At its 55th

    Session in January 1989, the CDCC, reviewing the outcomes of Project N?12, noted the

    encouraging progress which had been made, but also stressed the need to continue the

    process of reform. Above all, this process was to include further sectors of education and

    to treat further issues felt to be necessary components of a conceptual framework for the

    learning and teaching of foreign languages in Europe.

    The new sectors were - primary education

    - upper secondary education

    - advanced adult education and

    - vocationally oriented education

    The priority themes were - the specification of objectives;

    - the use of mass media and new technologies;

    - bilingual education;

    - the educational exploitation of visits and exchanges;

    - the preparation of pupils and students for independent learning;

    - appropriate methods and procedures for assessment and evaluation;

In order to cover these sectors and themes the CDCC launched a new project called

    "Language Learning for European Citizenship" which had as its main purpose the

    extension of the work done so far to the above mentioned sectors and themes.

It was through this new project that Foreign Language Education in Primary Schools

    became a priority area of the CDCC.

Five workshops were dedicated to this area:

Workshop 4A in June 1991 in Scotland

    Workshop 8A in May 1992 in Germany

    Workshop 4B in December 1993 in France

    Workshop 8B in May 1995 in Austria

    Workshop 17 in September 1995 in Spain

    Each of these workshops considered the whole spectrum of early foreign language education, but placed special emphasis on different aspects of this education. It seemed desirable, therefore, to integrate the results of the discussions, investigations and reflections of all five workshops and to attempt a synopsis of the relevant issues.

    For this purpose, the Council for Cultural Cooperation commissioned a compendium which might serve as a source of information for all European teachers, teacher trainers and curriculum developers in the field. The CDCC entrusted the editors of this book with the preparation, coordination and publication of such a compendium.

The aims of the compendium are

    1.to analyse the results of the work of the international workshops and of the related

    research and development programmes concerning the priority sector „Primary

    Education‟ and

    2.to identify the main aspects, trends, theoretical approaches and innovative teaching

    practices by means of individual contributions describing theoretical and practical

    developments.

    The central part of this book consists of six chapters on the six most important aspects of foreign language education in primary schools as they emerged out of the work of the five workshops listed above and because they seemed to be the logical components of this education.

The six aspects are treated in one chapter each:

1.Objectives and contents

    2.Methods

    3.Resources

    4.Organisation, Integration, Continuity

    5.Evaluation and Assessment

    6.Teacher Education

    The six authors are specialists from six European countries who - in the past 20 years - have become known, at least in their own countries, as experts in their field and who, in at least one of the 5 workshops, acted as directors of studies or as animators of one of the working groups.

    2. Rationale

The necessity of teaching at least one foreign language to every European citizen is so

    obvious that there remains hardly any doubt about its justification. The liberating value of stepping outside one‟s own culture and one‟s own language has long been recognized

    in educational philosophy and the competence to communicate in more than one

    language has become an accepted postulate of modern educational theory. Therefore all

    national educational systems in Europe provide the opportunity for their citizens to

    acquire at least a basic communicative competence in languages other than their own.

But should such acquisition of necessity be part of primary education ?

    We have to realize that - contrary to the general acceptance of the importance of offering foreign languages to all pupils - no common agreement has yet been reached about the

    desirability of making it a constituent part of the primary school curriculum. Quite a

    number of teachers and educationists wish to stick to the traditional practice of starting foreign language teaching at the beginning of secondary education, i.e. at the age of 10

    to 11 as a rule.

Therefore our present compendium has to include a rationale for foreign language

    education at the primary level and must present an overview of the principal arguments

    for the introduction of foreign languages into the primary school curriculum.

These arguments fall into four categories and stem from four scientific disciplines:

-Developmental psychology

    -Neuro-physiology

    -Anthropology

    -Pedagogy

a) Developmental psychology

From the early days of research in our field the programmes of investigation contained

    a good deal of psychological argumentation.

    Researchers turned to developmental psychology as the discipline directly concerned

    with the changes in people's dispositions and behaviour, and wanted to learn what this

    discipline had to offer.

    Arnold Gesell was one of the first psychologists who gave an answer to the question of

    when to introduce foreign language learning into the school curriculum:

"The young child below the age of 10 enjoys language experience. He is ready to learn,

    to listen, to communicate by word of mouth, in playful and dramatic situations. With

    favorable motivation he is emotionally amenable to a second and even a third

    language." (Gesell 1956)

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