Article Details

Article Details

Early Language Learning in Europe - public report

Author: ELLiE
Publisher: European Commission
Date of Publication: January 2011

ELLiE is a study of the introduction of second language learning in primary school classrooms in seven European countries. The study was set up in response to the rapid expansion of early language learning in Europe. The study aims to clarify what can realistically be achieved in European classrooms where limited amounts of curriculum time are allocated to second language learning. Included in the study are schools from Croatia, England, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

Key outcomes:

Factors contributing to children's success in learning languages include:

  • High motivation for learning and positive attitudes to speaking and reading
  • Confidence in communicating in the language (not worrying about mistakes)
  • A positive, supportive school context for language learning
  • The teacher‘s competency and use of the language
  • Contact with the language outside school
  • Parents‘ interest and support at home

Language achievements:

  • Outcomes are moderate at this stage
  • The range of outcomes varies substantially across countries
  • Higher levels are achieved by learners of English, particularly where English is used more widely in social contexts
  • Speaking skills develop only gradually under conditions of limited curriculum time
  • By the fourth year of learning, most children are able to read short comic strip stories
  • As children develop a larger vocabulary, they begin to syntactically complexify their language

The teacher‘s role is highly significant for young children, including:

  • Designing classroom activities that maximise children‘s use of the language
  • Selecting activities that ensure linguistic challenge and progression
  • Sustaining learner positive attitudes over time


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