Foreign language competences

The linguistic competences that children should possess by the age of about ten are still not covered by any empirically substantiated pronouncements from which standards could be clearly derived.

The one exception is the fact that – given the requisite input of effort – children are capable of mastering the foreign language’s pronunciation.

It must assumed that the linguistic competences of the child learner develop differently in discrete skill areas. This is probably connected with the emphasis of early foreign language teaching, which is concerned, particularly in beginner classes at primary school, with listening and speaking. At nursery and pre-schools it is the receptive skills – listening, listening comprehension, and comprehension generally – that play the central role. In the primary school, productive and interactive strategies and activities are increasingly added (speaking, writing, spoken interaction).
    Recommendations
    • Irrespective of when the early start is made, every child should be allowed time during the initial stage to absorb linguistic stimuli without being pressed to speak or suffering inappropriate correction of any attempts he or she does make to speak.
    • The special ability shown by children in the field of pronunciation should be fostered discriminatingly and intensively, particularly through the use of authentic audio materials.
    • Acquisition of writing skills in the foreign language should proceed with great caution.
    • The content, linguistic form and methodology of all inputs aimed at building foreign language competence should be designed for compatibility with the children’s communication needs.

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