Study finds that children can learn a second language in preschool

Sep 10, 2009

Interim results from an international research project which looks at bilingual education reveal that children can learn a second language as early as preschool.

The University of Hertfordshire is one of nine European partners in ELIAS (Early Language and Intercultural Acquisition Studies) which was awarded €300,000 by the European Union last year to research bilingual education and intercultural awareness in through observational studies and language assessments in six project preschools.

The researchers use a concept called ‘immersion teaching’, whereby children are addressed in each language by the respective native speaker and asked to respond in that language.

The study focuses on bilingual preschools in Germany, Sweden and Belgium, where the staff members are teachers from the respective country, but at least one teacher is a native speaker of English. Data is also collected from nurseries in Hertfordshire and the bilingual nursery of the German school in London. Children’s progress in English is measured through a receptive vocabulary test and a grammar task that was designed within the project. So far, 266 preschool children aged between three and five took part in the tests.

The researchers found that although not all the preschool groups performed equally well in the tests, and there was a large amount of individual variation in children’s comprehension of vocabulary and grammatical phenomena, there was clear evidence that it is feasible for children to start to learn a in a context, using immersion methods.

Dr Christina Schelletter, a senior lecturer in English Language and Communication in the School of Humanities at the University of Hertfordshire, who leads the UK investigation said: “We have found that immersion-type teaching can be of real benefit to children. Immersion is the best and most successful method of foreign language learning at an early age. The natural learning abilities of young children as well as their enthusiasm promise rapid and successful acquisition of the second .”

Provided by University of Hertfordshire (news : web)

Explore further: Boys and girls who have had a traumatic brain injury differ in rates of harmful behavior

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bilingual children more likely to stutter

Sep 09, 2008

Children who are bilingual before the age of 5 are significantly more likely to stutter and to find it harder to lose their impediment, than children who speak only one language before this age, suggests research published ...

Exposure to two languages carries far-reaching benefits

May 19, 2009

People who can speak two languages are more adept at learning a new foreign language than their monolingual counterparts, according to research conducted at Northwestern University. And their bilingual advantage persists ...

Turn off TV to teach toddlers new words

Jun 28, 2007

Toddlers learn their first words better from people than from Teletubbies, according to new research at Wake Forest University. The study was published in the June 21 issue of Media Psychology.

Recommended for you

How to predict who will suffer the most from stress

5 hours ago

More than 23 per cent of Canadians report being stressed or very stressed on most days. While chronic stress increases the risk of poor mental and physical health, not everyone is affected the same way. Some cope well, but ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

SDMike
not rated yet Sep 11, 2009
Headline is misleading. Children can start learning a second language just as early as they can learn a first language.