Useful references

Languages in early years and Key Stage 1

Discussions on primary languages forum led to forum members contributing a number of references relating to research into languages teaching prior to Key Stage 2.

These are listed below, with notes and links to pdfs of the texts where available. Suggestions for further references to include can be sent to

  • Blondin, C., Candelier, M., Edelenbos, P., Johnstone, R., Kubanek-German, A. and Taeschner, T. (1998). Foreign languages in primary and pre-school education: A review of recent research within the European Union. London: CILT.
  • Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment, Research and Statistics Unit (2007, August). Developing Little Linguists: Final evaluation of the Foundation Stage Primary Languages Pilot.
    - Findings from a Northern Ireland pilot study to introduce languages in 21 primary schools.
    - See also general support for additional language learning in the Foundation Stage as expressed in Section 2.1, Language and Literacy, of The Northern Ireland Curriculum: Primary (CCEA, 2007).
  • Hood, P. and Tobutt, K. (2009). Modern languages in the primary school. London: Sage Publications Ltd.  
    - Includes chapters on teaching languages in EYFS and Years 1 and 3, and on research underpinning the rationale for an early start.
  • Johnstone, R. (2002). Addressing the ‘age factor’: some implications for languages policy. Strasbourg: Council of Europe.
    - Includes a discussion of ‘What is the best age to start?’ comparing arguments for age e.g. 5-6 versus older e.g. 8-10.
  • Jones, J. and Simon Coffey, S. (2006). Modern Foreign Languages 5-11: A Guide for Teachers. London: David Fulton Publishers Ltd.
    - 'Findings recently presented by Lid King, National Director of Languages, confirmed that ‘best practice’ was found where: MFL was started early, from Year 3 rather than introduced in Years 5 and 6. (Lid King speaking at ‘Spanish: the primary challenge’, 25 November 2005)' (Jones and Coffey, 2006: 5).
    - ‘Learning through ears’ approach at KS1 advocated by Eric Hawkins (2005: 10) through song and rhyme (also appropriate for Foundation Stage children), towards ‘a wider, richer concept of literacy’ at KS2 (ibid. 2005:10).' (Jones and Coffey, 2006: 8).
    - The cited discussion by Eric Hawkins can be read in full at: Hawkins, E. (2005), 'Out of this nettle, drop-out, we pluck this flower, opportunity: re-thinking the school foreign language apprenticeship.' Language Learning Journal, 32: 4–17.
  • Kent, H. (2004). ‘Why reading Grimm needn’t be grim reading. Story-telling at key stage 1 and key stage 2.’ Deutsch Lehren and Lernen 29: 14-20.
  • Learning and Teaching Scotland (nd). ‘Languages pilot in East Renfrewshire.’ Early Years in a Local Authority.
    - Website citing successful piloting of languages in Scottish nursery schools.
    - From this link you can also access materials for teaching early years French, German and Spanish, developed by East Ayrshire Local Authority
  • Kirsch, C. (2008). Teaching foreign languages in the primary school. London: Continuum.
    - Notes age at which languages begin being taught in some European countries: 'In some countries provision starts in Year 1...' (page 12).
    - Outlines teaching in Key Stage One and reception as part of a case study of a 'successful school' (e.g. page 22).
  • Martin, C. (2000). ‘Modern foreign languages at primary school: a three-pronged approach?Language Learning Journal 22: 5-10.
    - Mentions KS1 in terms of ‘sensitisation programmes’.
  • Martin, C. (2000, September). An analysis of national and international research on the provision of modern foreign languages in primary schools: A report prepared for the QCDA. 
    - Includes Section 2.1 ‘Age at which foreign language is introduced’ which gives a comparison of different European countries (NB: for more current data see Eurydice (2008, November) Key data on teaching languages at school in Europe).
  • Sharpe, K. and Driscoll, P. (2000). At what age should foreign language learning begin?’ In K. Field (ed.), Issues in Modern Foreign Languages. London: Routledge Falmer.
    - ‘Foreign language learning should begin at the start of compulsory primary schooling’ (Sharpe and Driscoll 2000: 83).
  • Taescher, T. (2005). The magic teacher: learning a foreign language at nursery school – results from the project. London: CILT. 
    - Reports findings from a 3 year long research study conducted by the University of Rome, in a European Project Socrates Lingua framework. The project sought to investigate the questions: ‘how do we get young children to communicate in a language which neither they nor their teachers speak well?’, and ‘how can we tap into children's natural ability to acquire languages?’.
    - 120 Nursery teachers were involved in a training programme, using specially developed Dinocrocs Hocus and Lotus resources, and their pupils (3-5 years old) were tested and the results reported.
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