Research Project

Learning French From Ages 5, 7 and 11

Principal Investigator
Professor Florence Myles and Professor Rosamond Mitchell

An investigation into starting ages, rates and routes of learning amongst early foreign language learners

This ESRC-funded study compared how children aged 5, 7 and 11 learn French in the classroom. We aimed to:
  • document the development of linguistic competence among young classroom learners of French at three different starting ages, in primary and early secondary school classrooms, and identify similarities and differences
  • compare rates of development at different ages after the same amount of classroom exposure
  • document and compare the classroom learning strategies used by children at different ages and their attitudes to language learning
  • based on this evidence, contribute to theoretical understandings of language learning among young learners and inform current primary languages initiatives and educational practices in the UK and internationally

Our findings

Our results show that for receptive vocabulary, there is little difference between the age groups, but how recently a word has been heard is more important for younger children. Frequency of input is the single most important factor for vocabulary learning.

With regard to 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, while the younger children are very enthusiastic and intrinsically motivated (learning French is fun).

Two girls reading a book
Visit the database

Learn more about the aims of this project and visit the French Learner Language Oral Corpora (FLLOC) website. View the database and access our freely available collection of narratives, interviews and picture description tasks.

Visit the FLLOC website
Get in touch
Centre for Research in Language Development Throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 872083