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.More ...

The teaching content of an early foreign language learning programme should touch on general topics such as those listed below and should be designed to introduce relevant vocabulary along with each topic. The content elements specified should be embedded in communicative contexts.

Topics and situations
  • Everyday life and childhood culture:
    The child in various contexts, e.g. my family/friends and I, nursery/primary school, play, hobbies, sports, animals, travel, seasons/weather, food and drink, the body and health, clothes, festivals and popular customs, environmental protection/sustainable living etc.
  • Aspects of general knowledge:
    In contexts provided by the topics enumerated above, new information and new insights relating to human beings and the world we live in are imparted.
  • Intercultural geographic aspects:
    Learning from examples about everyday life/customs and manners in the target language country and comparison/contrast with those of the own environment.
  • Within the parameters of the topics and situations specified above, child-appropriate vocabulary featuring as far as possible all parts of speech should be learnt.
Those selecting content and linguistic structures relevant to pronunciation should bear the following considerations in mind:

  • Correct pronunciation and intonation should be treated as important from an early stage.
  • The child learner should be made aware of differences between the mother tongue and the foreign language.
  • The pronunciation training offered should include both exercises in listening and speaking.
Linguistic structures and language use
  • Communicative aims should be embedded in syntactically simple structures (predominantly main clauses), especially when the productive work required is direct oral communication. In the case of (listening and reading) comprehension texts, structures of greater complexity may be gradually introduced with a view to extending receptive language grasp.
  • A certain measure of awareness of linguistic rules and of underlying logical principles can lead to improved transparency in early foreign language teaching, and lays a foundation for future analytical thinking about language. This must not be confused with the teaching of grammar, and should only arise out of communicative or content issues. Schematically conceived exercises, deductive introduction of grammar rules, and references to metalinguistic terms are wholly inappropriate to the stage of cognitive development that has been reached by children of approximately four to ten years of age, and do not lead to the desired outcome of a communicative use of language.
Extra-linguistic and paralinguistic modes of utterance are an integral element of the relevant content of early foreign language teaching:

Non-verbal modes of communication
  • Communicative situations should be accompanied both by confirmatory practical actions (pointing to something, mimicking an action etc.) and by appropriate paralinguistic body communication (gesture, mime, body posture, bodily or eye contact etc.). The marked cultural specificity of paralinguistic modes gives them a key role in the success or failure of a communication.

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