AN increasing number of primary children are learning English as a result of efforts by Chancellor Gerhard Schoroeder.
In most states nearly all primaries are expected to offer a modern language by 2005. The southern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has just announced that it intends to hire nearly 1,300 extra staff to teach foreign languages throughout its primary schools.
Beginning next year, foreign languages will be introduced for first-grade children - six-year-olds - with the hope of covering 2,500 primaries in the state by 2004.
The project is based on new scientific findings on early language learning, the education mnistry says. Younger children will concentrate on intensive listening, speaking and aural comprehension, with reading and writing taught from grades 3 to 4.
Annette Schavan, the state's education minister, has been pushing for English to be made compulsory, but has been resisted by some educationists.
The move towards early language teaching has been spurred on by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder advocating English as an "obligatory second language" from the first years of school.
Germany has been impressed by the bilingual skills of primary children in neighbouring Holland and Austria which teach English from the first grade.