Appropriate content for an early foreign languages programme

Selection of thematic and linguistic learning content will be oriented towards the children’s interests and current developmental stage in terms of learning psychology. The content should both appeal to and expand their interests, appeal to their emotions and their readiness for commitment, foster their imaginative and creative powers and give them fun.

The content of early foreign language learning complements and nuances the image of the world that children are and have been constructing in the mother tongue. They follow a semantic and pragmatic progression and dispense almost wholly with grammatical progression. Content elements should be delivered as far as possible by way of authentic learning materials. Simple text-types such as rhymes, songs, sayings, fairy-tales and other stories are recommended. Non-authentic texts written for teaching purposes should be based on authentic language and authentic text-types and should feature dialogue forms and narrative forms.

If learners are to be able to develop linguistic competences in the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, and to acquire independent communicative competence in their childhood everyday world, they need vocabulary and linguistic structures appropriate to their life and circumstances as children. Teaching plans here should not simply provide a selection of topics, but should prescribe the structures that are to be learnt in the context of the topic in question, and these should be bound into picture books and textbooks.

Pronunciation training should be an integral part of the learning programme. Here, audio and audio-visual media offering recordings of native speakers are valuable aids. Paralinguistic communication such as gesture and mime is a further very important content component in early foreign language teaching, as are other linguistic resources intimately associated with the social and cultural dimensions of language use in the target language (greeting and other polite formulae, forms of address etc.).

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