Language policy actors
The framework conditions governing early foreign language learning are determined to a significant extent by educational and language policy decisions originating outside the learning and teaching institutions of nursery education, pre-primary education, primary education).
Decisions as to when children should start learning a first or second foreign language and how such a learning programme should ultimately be structured are made by numerous country-specific institutions and interest groups. It is, of course, possible for language policy provisions by an internationally federated body like the EU to influence the prioritisation and the attractiveness of a foreign language as a curriculum subject within a national education system.
Also involved are organisations promoting languages and language-teaching, such as modern language teachers’ associations, learned societies and specialist institutes, and bodies working directly to further international understanding: all such groups seek to influence the decision-making of the political actors by adducing their respective subject-specific expert knowledge .
Political and subject-expert actors alike are to represent the interests of language communities and languages-related professional groups. It is thus particularly important that early years practitioners, teachers and other experts in the area of early foreign language learning should formulate their special interests clearly and play an active part in debating language-policy issues. Scope for this is provided e.g. through membership of specialist bodies, participation in activities that encourage the learning of languages, and participation in continuing professional development possibilitie.
While the position with regard to early foreign language learning programmes differs from country to country, a number of broad recommendations can be formulated:
Decision-makers should ensure the following:
- A clear and coherent languages education plan is developed, with due regard to national and regional singularities.
- Clear guidelines on implementation of languages policy and the fostering of language learning are formulated.
- Structural and financial provision for the training and continuing professional development of teachers is ensured.
- Objectives of reform measures are made transparent to the general public.
- Organisations promoting languages and language learning are integrated into the decision-making processes.
- Early language learning programmes for all children should be easily accessible wherever possible.
- insist on active involvement in education policy decisions.
- formulate their professional and specialist interests and make use of interest groups and specialist representatives to feed their specialist knowledge into language policy debate.
 Cf. Ammon (2003)