Young EFL Learners Dr. Ofra Inbar Beit Berl College &Tel-Aviv University Teacher Education and School Reform and Development Sixth Israeli-German Symposium, October, 2005
The content of the talk • Language learning at a young age • The spread of English • Learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at a young age • Knowledge-Base for teaching EFL to young learners • Research in-progress: Home Room teachers teaching English in grade One
Should a language be introduced at a young age? Informal (home) environment vs. formal school setting Home (natural) environment: • Caretaker’s fluency and comfort in the language • Recognition of the advantages of bilingualism – contribution to complex cognitive skills (Baker,1998; Bialystock, 2002; Hornberger, 2003)
Formal Schooling: 2 schools of thought Against • Interference with L1 • Research shows efficient learning takes place at older ages- ability to utilize and transfer skills from L1 (Cenzos, 2005; Mclaughlin, 1992 Singleton, 2001) • Learning Fatigue • Early exposure and more teaching hours: not enough to ensure success
For • Affective factors: less inhibited; greater motivation • Oral ability, particularly pronunciation enhanced at a young age (Johnstone, 1994; Marinova-Todd et al, 2000) • Confidence as a language speaker • Need to know language(s): Multilingualism is a key to success
But: Beliefs regarding language learning at school Depend on: Purpose, setting, frequency, teacher, resources, language Discussion: Somewhat Passé Especially with regard to English Why?
English as a Lingua Franca Emergence of English as a World Language due to • British colonialism • US power • Advent technology • About a billion people engaged in studying English as a Second (ESL) or Foreign (EFL) Language: Only about 300,000 million L1 English speakers (British Council, 2004; Crystal, 2000)
The Spread of English: 3 Circles (Kachru, 1982) Inner: Britain, USA, Canada, Australia, etc. Outer: Nigeria, Singapore, India (New Englishes) Expanding: Israel, Netherlands, Germany, etc. EXPANDING INNER OUTER EXPANDING
Currently: Distinction Blurred • New Englishes in Outer Circles (Periphery) asserting their rights: Singlish in Singapore Japanese English Indian English • Expanding Circle countries (like Israel and Germany) embracing English as a semi-official language
Native and Non-Native English speakers • Who is a native speaker? Central or Periphery? • Who is the best English teacher: Native of standard (inner Circle) English or bilingual, non-native English speaker? • Criteria for material selection and for assessment: Central? Local? English as a Lingua Franca?
Young Learners of English • Wide spread • Language prestige • Parental pressure: social mobility • The younger the better regardless of research findings
How Young is Young? • Home environment: birth School: • Foreign language teaching in the US- 12 • Europe: varies: often 9-10 (or earlier) • Cambridge Young Learners’ test: 7-12 • Israel and other “expanding countries” The younger the better move to lower age. Currently: grade one Sometimes kindergarten
What Knowledge-Base is required for teaching EFL to young learners • Knowledge of the language • Knowledge about the language • Knowledge how to teach he language • Knowledge about teaching young children • Knowledge about teaching the language to young children
Home Room Teachers Teaching English • A common phenomenon in some European and Asian countries • In Israel: Began 5 years ago in the town of Ra’anana Reasons: • Rooted in educational philosophical thought • Availability, convenience • Economically viable
Knowledge on how to teach English to young learners Who has the advantage Till recently: Lack of training in EFL teacher education programs (Program component in Beit Berl since 2001)
Programs for teaching EFL to young learners: Pertinent issues • Goals: exposure, fun, or academic? • Listening/speaking or literate skills? • Use of target language (English) vs. local language (Hebrew; German), and for what purpose? • Integration with in-going topics (taught in the local language) • Literacy? • Assessment? • Coordination with programs for the older learners?
Relevance to Israel • The Younger the better: move to introduce English at younger ages • One of the flagships of the current Ministry of Education policy • Vast spread of first grade English initiatives
In-Progress Research:Home Room teachers teaching English in Grade OneHeaded by Prof. Elana Shohamy, Tel-Aviv University Initiated and Funded by the Israeli Ministry of Education
Pertinent Issues Programs (3 programs are being examined) Teacher’s Knowledge-Base (English teachers vs. home room teachers) Attitudes of the public (high level administrators, principals, parents) Students: achievements, attitudes, self-assessment
Research Tools Large Sample • Teachers’ questionnaires (home room and English) • Principals’ questionnaire • Interviews (administrators, program developers) Sample of 7 schools: • Parents’ questionnaire • Classroom observations • Teacher interviews • Students’ research tools
Students’ Research Tools • Listening comprehension quiz (N=250) • Individual oral interaction interviews (N=54) • Attitude questionnaires (N=250) • Self-Assessment questionnaires (N=250)
Some initial observations • Teaching of English in grade 1 in Israel is extremely common • Both teaching models exist (home room and English teachers) • Programs: different objectives and modes of implementation (one program – home room teachers only)
Student Research Tools Specific age appropriate and language level considerations • format (whether individual, group or class) • choice of item and task types • choice of contexualized, age-relevant stimuli
Comparative Research Study? • Similar phenomena in Germany? • Possibilities for joint and comparative research? Contact Information: email@example.com