What is it about?
Bringing very young children into contact with foreign languages may result in faster language learning, improved mother tongue skills and better performance in other areas. That is why EU education ministers support the teaching of at least two foreign languages from a very early age.
Why is it needed?
As well as laying the foundations for later learning, early language learning can influence attitudes towards other languages and cultures, and this is the primary motivation behind the various European Commission initiatives to promote early language learning and support further research in this area.
What has been done so far?
Within the Commission there is a group made up of national experts in the field of early language learning at pre-primary level. This group exchanges information on the situation in different countries and draws up policy recommendations and guidelines on how to implement those policies.
The outcomes of the group’s work and discussions were published in a Policy Handbook in 2011.
From 2007-2013, the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) offered a wide range of language-related opportunities through study placements, apprenticeships and traineeships abroad.
These programmes allowed those taking part to gain first-hand experience in teaching and learning in another European language, country and education system.
What are the next steps?
The Erasmus+ programme will continue the LLP’s work and also introduces new opportunities, such as the opportunity to create strategic partnerships in the field of early language learning.
Early language learning will also be discussed as part of the European Commission’s more general strategy for Early Childhood Education and Care.