Article Details

Article Details

Lessons from abroad: International review of primary languages

Author: Teresa Tinsley, Therese Comfort
Publisher: CfBT
Date of Publication: 2012

An evidence base on language learning within various primary curricula across the world. Part 1 of the report reviews international research and development in early language learning, presenting evidence on the benefits of starting foreign language learning in primary school or earlier. Part 2 focuses on the issues and challenges common to all education systems that need to be addressed if primary language teaching is to be a success.

Key points include:

Research evidence on early language learning

  • Although researchers have not been able to reach any firm conclusion concerning the existence of a critical age, they agree that young children learn languages differently from older learners and have some advantages over those who start later.
  • Early learners tend to be more intuitive, less anxious and better at acquiring the sounds and rhythms of the new language.
  • Starting early allows for more time for language learning overall and a sustained experience with the potential to lead to higher levels of proficiency at the end of secondary school.
  • An early start is not a guarantee of success – the amount and quality of teaching are important determinants as well as continuity of learning in secondary school.


University of Strathclyde Education Scotland British Council Scotland The Scottish Government
SCILT - Scotlands National centre for Languages