Document Type



Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


Following publication of the National Languages Strategy on 18 December 2002 the teaching of foreign languages (FL) in the primary school is again high on the agenda in England as in other parts of Europe. Research has shown in the past (Burstall et al., 1974) that an early start in FL does not necessarily result in any long-term advantage in terms of proficiency. However, the above study also draws other conclusions, less widely reported, which remain significant. These include insufficient liaison between primary and secondary schools, lack of continuity in foreign language learning across phases, inadequate training of teachers, and a lack of differentiation by MFL secondary teachers. This article describes a small-scale research project which took place between April 2002 and May 2003. It sought to identify some of the main issues of transition from the perspective of the learners themselves, their foreign language teachers, heads of FL departments and head teachers at primary and secondary level. A complex and somewhat contradictory picture emerges from this study. On the one hand, there are many positive findings such as the enjoyment of languages and openness to other cultures and languages in the primary phase, greater oral fluency and confidence of learners when transferring to the secondary phase and enthusiasm shown for early language learning (ELL) by teachers in the primary and the secondary phase. On the other hand, opportunities which exist for building on primary language learning are largely wasted.

Publication (Name of Journal)

The Language Learning Journal