French - Age is not a concern

20th February 2009 at 00:00

Award-winning research has come to mixed conclusions about the benefits of learning a foreign language from P1.

Elizabeth Fuller studied 89 children from a primary school who were immersed in French from P1 and its receiving secondary. She also examined 101 children from two primaries where French was taught from P6, and their receiving secondary.

The Dundee University student, who won the national George Gray Award for best final year BEd dissertation, found that children who started learning the new language in P1 were more confident using it in S1. This applied to accent, pronunciation, speaking, listening and comprehension.

The perception that the same pupils would be more enthusiastic about learning languages was thrown into doubt. There appeared to be a lack of infrastructure to maintain the progress of early beginners, raising fears they may become disillusioned and less motivated in S1 and 2.

In schools where the language was taught from P6, pupils who had struggled with other types of learning were on a "level playing field", with a chance to "begin, compete and shine again". She concluded: "Age alone does not appear to be the overarching factor in success with second language acquisition."

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