Title
Learning French from ages 5, 7 and 11: An investigation into starting ages, rates and routes of learning amongst early foreign language learners
Description
This project compared how children ages 5, 7 and 11 learn French in the classroom. The same French teacher provided similar teaching to Year 1, Year 3 and year 7 groups in two state schools. All lessons were video-recorded and children were tested on various linguistic measures mid project, at the end of the project and two months after the end. All production data was anonymised, transcribed and stored on the project website www.flloc.soton.ac.uk (Young Learners). Children’s English literacy scores were recorded and their working memory measured. Additionally, focus groups and one-to-one interviews took place, to document children’s motivation for learning French and their language learning strategies. The data was analysed for the development of vocabulary and grammar, the role of gestures in facilitating language learning, and children’s attitudes, motivation and learning strategies, as well as links between linguistic development, working memory and English literacy. In summary, the findings show: - Receptive vocabulary: there is little difference between the groups, although how recently a word has been heard is more important for the younger children. Frequency in the input is the single most important factor for vocabulary learning. - Grammar: older children have a clear advantage - Good working memory and good English literacy support classroom language learning - The older children make use of a wider range of cognitive strategies to aid learning - The younger children are very enthusiastic and intrinsically motivated (learning French is fun) The differences found in children’s learning at different ages have important implications for early foreign language learning curriculum development and policy.
Language
English
Author
Florence Myles
Co-author
Rosamond Mitchell
Summary of scientific impacts
This project was unique in comparing early second language development in children of similar backgrounds, taught the same curriculum by the same teacher in a similar context, the only deliberately manipulated variable being the age of the children. Previous research had not controlled for this range of contextual variables; consequently, conclusions reached about the role of age in early classroom learning have been rather tentative. The scientific contribution of this project has therefore primarily been to provide a more rigorous analysis of differences in developmental routes and in learning styles due to children's age, the most significant findings being the advantage provided by older children's relative cognitive maturity for grammar learning, and a motivational 'cline' (strong positive motivation among primary school children, lesser motivation for 11 year olds). . Additionally, the wide range of elicitation measures used has enabled us to relate the development of different aspects of the linguistic system (vocabulary; grammar) to other variables such as working memory and L1 literacy. The fact that all classes were videorecorded has made possible a detailed investigation of the relationship between input and learning. For example, the overwhelming contribution of word frequency in teacher input to vocabulary learning, and the supplementary contributions of gesture of different types, have been clearly demonstrated. Another major scientific impact of this project has been its contribution to the further development of the now substantial database of oral learner French created by the research team over time (www.flloc.soton.ac.uk). This database and the computerised analysis of learner data is attracting much interest internationally, as evidenced by invitations to give plenaries at major international conferences and to contribute articles to prestigious volumes (see dissemination activities below).
Findings and Outputs
The project findings,all presented at the events detailed below,can be summarised as follows: Development of receptive vocabulary: Cross-group differences not significant. Raw frequency of teacher input plays major role, especially for younger children. Recency (i.e.how close to testing word has been heard):only significant for yr 1. No clear relationship between type of input and retention of vocabulary. No significant differences between boys and girls Overall,vocabulary development facilitated most by frequency of input,and recency for younger children. Age differences minimal. Development of grammar: Yr 7 significantly better than yr 3 (p<0.05) who="" are="" significantly="" better="" than="" yr="" 1=""><0.01) role of gesture and multimodality: gesture can aid saliency and analysis/processing of input redundant gesture can distract from linguistic input words heard only in songs and stories are poorly learned attitudes,motivation and learner strategies: 1. attitudes: main reason for liking french:lessons are fun language highly prominent in perception of difference between selves and french children slightly less enthusiasm for learning french in yr 3,and no enthusiasm in yr 7 2. learning strategies repeating most common strategy for yr 1 & 3 more awareness and wider range of strategies in yr 3 3. motivation focus on communicative need e.g.on holidays wider range of imagined situations in year 3 intrinsic value of languages mentioned by some year 3 children little motivation in yr 7 correlations between: literacy–vocabulary development(yrs 1 & 3) working memory–grammar development(all yrs) working memory–literacy(yrs 1 & 3) working memory–receptive vocabulary(yr 3) fewer correlations yr 7 because of smaller size of group overall: age advantage for grammar older children use wider range of cognitive strategies younger children very enthusiastic working memory and literacy support language learning role="" of="" gesture="" and="" multimodality:="" gesture="" can="" aid="" saliency="" and="" analysis/processing="" of="" input="" redundant="" gesture="" can="" distract="" from="" linguistic="" input="" words="" heard="" only="" in="" songs="" and="" stories="" are="" poorly="" learned="" attitudes,motivation="" and="" learner="" strategies:="" 1.="" attitudes:="" main="" reason="" for="" liking="" french:lessons="" are="" fun="" language="" highly="" prominent="" in="" perception="" of="" difference="" between="" selves="" and="" french="" children="" slightly="" less="" enthusiasm="" for="" learning="" french="" in="" yr="" 3,and="" no="" enthusiasm="" in="" yr="" 7="" 2.="" learning="" strategies="" repeating="" most="" common="" strategy="" for="" yr="" 1="" &="" 3="" more="" awareness="" and="" wider="" range="" of="" strategies="" in="" yr="" 3="" 3.="" motivation="" focus="" on="" communicative="" need="" e.g.on="" holidays="" wider="" range="" of="" imagined="" situations="" in="" year="" 3="" intrinsic="" value="" of="" languages="" mentioned="" by="" some="" year="" 3="" children="" little="" motivation="" in="" yr="" 7="" correlations="" between:="" literacy–vocabulary="" development(yrs="" 1="" &="" 3)="" working="" memory–grammar="" development(all="" yrs)="" working="" memory–literacy(yrs="" 1="" &="" 3)="" working="" memory–receptive="" vocabulary(yr="" 3)="" fewer="" correlations="" yr="" 7="" because="" of="" smaller="" size="" of="" group="" overall:="" age="" advantage="" for="" grammar="" older="" children="" use="" wider="" range="" of="" cognitive="" strategies="" younger="" children="" very="" enthusiastic="" working="" memory="" and="" literacy="" support="" language="" learning="">
How these impacts were achieved
Members of the project team gave 35 academic talks at the following institutions/conferences(for details, see http://www.flloc.soton.ac.uk/publications.html#presentations or ROS): David, A. (2010) Association of French language Studies (AFLS) Annual Conference, Nancy Mitchell,R. (2010,2011) University of Southampton 2011 University of Cambridge 2011 LangUE conference, University of Essex 2011 Modern English Education Society Conference, Seoul (2 different talks) 2012 Primary Languages Show, London 2012 session for 160 trainee teachers, Southampton Mitchell, R, David, A, and Myles, F (2011) AFLS Conference, Nancy Mitchell, R and Myles, F (2011) AILA 16th World Congress of Applied Linguistics, Beijing Mitchell, R, Myles, F and Dos Santos, C (2010) BAAL LLT SIG Conference Mitchell, R,Rule, S, Myles,F and David, A (2011) American Association of Applied Linguistics, Annual conference,Chicago Mitchell, R. and Rule, S.(2012) BAAL Annual Conference, Southampton Myles, F. (2010) The Fifth Inter-Varietal Applied Corpus Studies (IVACS), Edinburgh 2010 University of Cambridge 2010 Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland 2011 Birkbeck College, University of London 2011 EUROSLA (European Second Language Association) annual conference, Stockholm (plenary) 2011 UCLR2011,Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (keynote) 2012 University of Thessaloniki, Greece 2012 Conference ‘Second Language Acquisition: a view from Europe’, University of Essex 2012 Research seminar, Newcastle upon Tyne 2012 EUROSLA Annual Conference,Poznan,Poland 2012 Essex Language Conference for Teachers 2012 University of East Anglia(public lecture) 2012 University of East Anglia(research seminar) Rule, S. (2010).EUROSLA conference, Reggio Emilia, Italy 2010 ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Bangor David, McManus, Mitchell, Myles and Rule also gave 7 talks on different aspects of the project at the project conference(July 2011; see http://www.flloc.soton.ac.uk/events.html for details)
Who these findings impact
The many invitations to present our findings demonstrate the impact our work is having on the understanding of early classroom language learning. Invitations have come from a broad research community including second language acquisition researchers (and ‘young learner’ researchers in particular), applied linguists, and teacher trainers (invitations from: Universities of Southampton, Cambridge, Essex, Neuchatel, Birkbeck, Newcastle, East Anglia, Bangor. Invitations to give keynotes/plenaries at the following events: LangUE conference, Essex; Modern English Education Society Conference, Seoul; Primary Languages Show, London; EUROSLA conference, Stockholm, UCLR Conference, Louvain-la-Neuve; Language Education for bilingual young learners, Thessaloniki; Essex Language Conference for teachers).
Summary of economic impacts
This project was unique in comparing early second language development in children of similar backgrounds, taught the same curriculum by the same teacher in a similar context, the only deliberately manipulated variable being the age of the children. Previous research had not controlled for this range of contextual variables; consequently, conclusions reached about the role of age in early classroom learning have been rather tentative. The scientific contribution of this project has therefore primarily been to provide a more rigorous analysis of differences in developmental routes and in learning styles due to children's age, the most significant findings being the advantage provided by older children's relative cognitive maturity for grammar learning, and a motivational 'cline' (strong positive motivation among primary school children, lesser motivation for 11 year olds). . Additionally, the wide range of elicitation measures used has enabled us to relate the development of different aspects of the linguistic system (vocabulary; grammar) to other variables such as working memory and L1 literacy. The fact that all classes were videorecorded has made possible a detailed investigation of the relationship between input and learning. For example, the overwhelming contribution of word frequency in teacher input to vocabulary learning, and the supplementary contributions of gesture of different types, have been clearly demonstrated. Another major scientific impact of this project has been its contribution to the further development of the now substantial database of oral learner French created by the research team over time (www.flloc.soton.ac.uk). This database and the computerised analysis of learner data is attracting much interest internationally, as evidenced by invitations to give plenaries at major international conferences and to contribute articles to prestigious volumes (see dissemination activities below).
Findings and Outputs
The project findings,all presented at the events detailed below,can be summarised as follows: Development of receptive vocabulary: Cross-group differences not significant. Raw frequency of teacher input plays major role, especially for younger children. Recency (i.e.how close to testing word has been heard):only significant for yr 1. No clear relationship between type of input and retention of vocabulary. No significant differences between boys and girls Overall,vocabulary development facilitated most by frequency of input,and recency for younger children. Age differences minimal. Development of grammar: Yr 7 significantly better than yr 3 (p<0.05) who="" are="" significantly="" better="" than="" yr="" 1=""><0.01) role of gesture and multimodality: gesture can aid saliency and analysis/processing of input redundant gesture can distract from linguistic input words heard only in songs and stories are poorly learned attitudes,motivation and learner strategies: 1. attitudes: main reason for liking french:lessons are fun language highly prominent in perception of difference between selves and french children slightly less enthusiasm for learning french in yr 3,and no enthusiasm in yr 7 2. learning strategies repeating most common strategy for yr 1 & 3 more awareness and wider range of strategies in yr 3 3. motivation focus on communicative need e.g.on holidays wider range of imagined situations in year 3 intrinsic value of languages mentioned by some year 3 children little motivation in yr 7 correlations between: literacy–vocabulary development(yrs 1 & 3) working memory–grammar development(all yrs) working memory–literacy(yrs 1 & 3) working memory–receptive vocabulary(yr 3) fewer correlations yr 7 because of smaller size of group overall: age advantage for grammar older children use wider range of cognitive strategies younger children very enthusiastic working memory and literacy support language learning role="" of="" gesture="" and="" multimodality:="" gesture="" can="" aid="" saliency="" and="" analysis/processing="" of="" input="" redundant="" gesture="" can="" distract="" from="" linguistic="" input="" words="" heard="" only="" in="" songs="" and="" stories="" are="" poorly="" learned="" attitudes,motivation="" and="" learner="" strategies:="" 1.="" attitudes:="" main="" reason="" for="" liking="" french:lessons="" are="" fun="" language="" highly="" prominent="" in="" perception="" of="" difference="" between="" selves="" and="" french="" children="" slightly="" less="" enthusiasm="" for="" learning="" french="" in="" yr="" 3,and="" no="" enthusiasm="" in="" yr="" 7="" 2.="" learning="" strategies="" repeating="" most="" common="" strategy="" for="" yr="" 1="" &="" 3="" more="" awareness="" and="" wider="" range="" of="" strategies="" in="" yr="" 3="" 3.="" motivation="" focus="" on="" communicative="" need="" e.g.on="" holidays="" wider="" range="" of="" imagined="" situations="" in="" year="" 3="" intrinsic="" value="" of="" languages="" mentioned="" by="" some="" year="" 3="" children="" little="" motivation="" in="" yr="" 7="" correlations="" between:="" literacy–vocabulary="" development(yrs="" 1="" &="" 3)="" working="" memory–grammar="" development(all="" yrs)="" working="" memory–literacy(yrs="" 1="" &="" 3)="" working="" memory–receptive="" vocabulary(yr="" 3)="" fewer="" correlations="" yr="" 7="" because="" of="" smaller="" size="" of="" group="" overall:="" age="" advantage="" for="" grammar="" older="" children="" use="" wider="" range="" of="" cognitive="" strategies="" younger="" children="" very="" enthusiastic="" working="" memory="" and="" literacy="" support="" language="" learning="">
How these impacts were achieved
Members of the project team gave 35 academic talks at the following institutions/conferences(for details, see http://www.flloc.soton.ac.uk/publications.html#presentations or ROS): David, A. (2010) Association of French language Studies (AFLS) Annual Conference, Nancy Mitchell,R. (2010,2011) University of Southampton 2011 University of Cambridge 2011 LangUE conference, University of Essex 2011 Modern English Education Society Conference, Seoul (2 different talks) 2012 Primary Languages Show, London 2012 session for 160 trainee teachers, Southampton Mitchell, R, David, A, and Myles, F (2011) AFLS Conference, Nancy Mitchell, R and Myles, F (2011) AILA 16th World Congress of Applied Linguistics, Beijing Mitchell, R, Myles, F and Dos Santos, C (2010) BAAL LLT SIG Conference Mitchell, R,Rule, S, Myles,F and David, A (2011) American Association of Applied Linguistics, Annual conference,Chicago Mitchell, R. and Rule, S.(2012) BAAL Annual Conference, Southampton Myles, F. (2010) The Fifth Inter-Varietal Applied Corpus Studies (IVACS), Edinburgh 2010 University of Cambridge 2010 Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland 2011 Birkbeck College, University of London 2011 EUROSLA (European Second Language Association) annual conference, Stockholm (plenary) 2011 UCLR2011,Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium (keynote) 2012 University of Thessaloniki, Greece 2012 Conference ‘Second Language Acquisition: a view from Europe’, University of Essex 2012 Research seminar, Newcastle upon Tyne 2012 EUROSLA Annual Conference,Poznan,Poland 2012 Essex Language Conference for Teachers 2012 University of East Anglia(public lecture) 2012 University of East Anglia(research seminar) Rule, S. (2010).EUROSLA conference, Reggio Emilia, Italy 2010 ESRC Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Bangor David, McManus, Mitchell, Myles and Rule also gave 7 talks on different aspects of the project at the project conference(July 2011; see http://www.flloc.soton.ac.uk/events.html for details)
Who these findings impact
The many invitations to present our findings demonstrate the impact our work is having on the understanding of early classroom language learning. Invitations have come from a broad research community including second language acquisition researchers (and ‘young learner’ researchers in particular), applied linguists, and teacher trainers (invitations from: Universities of Southampton, Cambridge, Essex, Neuchatel, Birkbeck, Newcastle, East Anglia, Bangor. Invitations to give keynotes/plenaries at the following events: LangUE conference, Essex; Modern English Education Society Conference, Seoul; Primary Languages Show, London; EUROSLA conference, Stockholm, UCLR Conference, Louvain-la-Neuve; Language Education for bilingual young learners, Thessaloniki; Essex Language Conference for teachers).
Potential future impacts
Disseminating our work as widely as we can is foremost on our agenda. We are still engaged in the analysis of the very rich dataset generated by the project. F. Myles has just appointed a part time assistant at the University of Essex who will be developing our language outreach activities; this will include a programme of activities disseminating her department’s research in language and teaching to schools and the wider public. A website will be created with information for teachers and for parents, and the project findings will figure prominently. F. Myles has been invited to contribute a chapter on ‘corpora and second language acquisition theory’ for the Cambridge Handbook of Learner Corpus Research, edited by Sylvianne Granger, Gaetanelle Gilquin and Fanny Meunier, thus publicising further the large dataset generated by the project.
Unexpected impacts
The work on the role of gesture in foreign language learning arose through observation of the classroom teacher employed by the project. She made extensive use of gestures with the young children, and because we had video-recordings of all the classroom input, it was possible to investigate the role that these gestures play in supporting early language learning in our three age groups. This led to substantive work which we had not foreseen, and which is allowing us to contribute to a rapidly developing area of work in second language acquisition internationally (L2 gesture studies). This work is attracting both national and international interest (see e.g. conference presentations and invitations).
Limited scientific impacts
As mentioned to the ESRC during the course of the project, personal reasons disrupted the smooth running of the project and writing plans. Consequently, there have been some delays in the writing of outputs.
Limited economic impacts
As mentioned above, the state of flux of government policy regarding the primary school curriculum including primary languages, and also significant changes both in pre-service education and in teachers continuing professional development, have limited the immediate practical impact of the work. As described above however, we are confident that as policy becomes clearer, the potential of the work for longer term societal impact will be realised more fully.
Harvard
Myles, Florence and Mitchell, Rosamond. Learning French from ages 5, 7 and 11: An investigation into starting ages, rates and routes of learning amongst early foreign language learners: ESRC Impact Report, RES-062-23-1545. Swindon: ESRC
Vancouver
Myles Florence and Mitchell Rosamond. Learning French from ages 5, 7 and 11: An investigation into starting ages, rates and routes of learning amongst early foreign language learners: ESRC Impact Report, RES-062-23-1545. Swindon: ESRC.