What is English lesson

foreign languages Does English make sense in primary school?

Education politicians and parents alike believe that the sooner English lessons begin, the easier it will be for children to find their way around the foreign language. Together they have repeatedly called for an earlier start to English in school in recent years. However, a new study by the Universities of Bochum and Dortmund now comes to the opposite conclusion. According to the results, those students in the seventh grade who started their language lessons later did better in English.

What was examined

The study is based on the performance of a total of 5,130 students from 31 high schools in North Rhine-Westphalia. For four years, from 2010 to 2014, the researchers working with Nils Jäkel and Markus Ritter collected data. They measured the children's reading and listening comprehension in the fifth and seventh grades. The result: While those who had learned the language from the first grade could speak better English in the fifth grade, it was the other way around two years later. Then the kids who had only learned English since third grade were better.

"The early start in a foreign language is often highly praised, although there is little research that supports this myth," says Nils Jäkel, didactician from the University of Bochum. "Our study confirms results from other countries, for example Spain, which show that the early start With one to two hours of English lessons per week in primary school children, it contributes little to language skills in the long term. "

Do you lose the fun in the language?

So far, the researchers can only speculate about the cause of these contradicting findings. However, they suspect the break between the teaching methods at elementary school and those at high school. In the first four years, English is mainly taught through play, after which dry grammar and vocabulary lessons dominate. Jäckel suspects that this may spoil the desire for the foreign language for the early English starters because they become more aware of the difference. Another possible reason is that the timing of the start is less important than the scope of the elementary education.

There have been indications for a long time that the faster adaptability of children to new languages ​​in the environment cannot be transferred one-to-one to school lessons. Jeff McQuillan, professor emeritus of linguistics and education and educational researcher from Los Angeles, points in a blog post to a study from 1979 in which the results of various studies are summarized. According to this, younger children are only better than adults at learning a second language if they are surrounded by that language in a natural environment. In other words, children will only learn English faster if they move to an English-speaking environment. In language lessons, however, adults learn grammar rules and vocabulary faster than children and older children faster than younger children.

Optimal: coordination between primary and secondary schools

The educational researchers working with Nils Jäckel do not, however, question the earlier language lessons in and of themselves. However, they suggest a better balance between elementary and high school classes on the one hand, and more English lessons from the third grade on the other.

Figarino | 02/10/2017 | 3:25 pm