Teaching English to Young
KHÍ Grunnskólaskor 2003
Samuel C Lefever
Why teach English at the
primary level?
increased use of and exposure to English in
daily life – practical need
exposes children to understanding of foreign
cultures – tolerance
links communication to the understanding of
new concepts
the earlier you start the more time you get to
learn the language
stimulates language awareness – benefitting
both L1 and L2
Are children better language
the brain is more adaptable before puberty
than after – L2 acquisition is possible without
interference from self-consciousness
children have fewer negative attitudes to
foreign languages and cultures – more open
for learning languages
children’s language learning is more closely
integrated with real communication –
depends more on the immediate physical
Are children better language
children are less conscious of learning
English as a “school subject” – learning
comes more naturally
children devote more time to language
L2 learning differs from L1 acquisition
Conclusion: beginning at an early age can give
advantages; it need not do any harm – given
the availability of trained teachers and the
use of appropriate materials
Characteristics of young learners
(8-10 years old)
keen and enthusiastic – motivated
curious and inquisitive
outspoken – clear views
learning can be closely linked to the
development of ideas and concepts
rely on spoken word as well as the
physical world to convey and
understand meaning
Characteristics of young learners
learn by doing/hands-on experience
(physical movement and activity necessary to
stimulate thinking – understanding comes
through hands, eyes, and ears)
a sense of fairness – can work with and
learn from others
have some sort of language awareness
and readiness
capacity for indirect learning - guessing
Implications for teaching
focus on words and interaction
play with the language
develop the awareness of language
ensure variety in the classroom
routines and repetition
scaffolding and modelling
cooperation not competition
grammar is absorbed – student-directed
assessment and encouragement

Teaching English to Young Learners