'Discovering Language' in primary school: An evaluation of a language awareness programme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • Amanda Barton
  • Joanna Bragg
  • Ludovica Serratrice

Abstract

In a paper published in The Language Learning Journal in 2005, Eric Hawkins describes his vision of language education as an apprenticeship comprising two stages. In stage one (ages 5-14), the purpose is 'educational' and the focus is on language awareness; in stage two (14-19), the purpose is 'instrumental' and learners are given a choice of languages to study through immersion. The current paper presents the findings of a project called 'Discovering Language' which resembles Hawkins' conceptualisation of the first stage. The project was launched in September 2004 in seven state primary schools in three local authorities. Three hundred and seventy-four children embarked on a programme involving limited exposure to five languages throughout Years 5 and 6 (ages 9-11). This paper sets out to locate the project in the context of other language awareness initiatives, and to describe the findings of the evaluation at the end of Year 6. This comprised interviews with teachers, headteachers and a sample of pupils, and a questionnaire completed by pupils and parents. The initiative appeared to boost pupils' extrinsic motivation, and pupils appreciated that learning a variety of languages was more interesting than learning just one. Parents who took part in the survey were largely positive about the benefits of this alternative model; of the parents who felt that languages should be taught in primary school, three out of five (60%) indicated that they felt that more than one language should be taught. From the perspective of teachers and headteachers, the programme clearly offers considerable advantages over conventional single foreign language programmes. The overriding factor in this is the question of subject knowledge; teachers and headteachers felt that, unlike a single foreign language model, the programme did not require specialist language teachers to deliver it.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-164
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Learning Journal
Volume37
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009