Early language learning

As well as laying the foundations for later learning, early language learning can influence attitudes towards other languages and cultures. This is the primary motivation behind the various European Commission initiatives to promote early language learning and support further research in this area.

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. 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.

In May 2018, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Council recommendation on high quality early childhood education and care systems. This proposal is based on previous work in this area, especially the Key Principles of a Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care as proposed by a working group of national experts in 2014.

What are the next steps?

The Erasmus+ programme introduces new opportunities to create strategic partnerships in the field of early language learning.

Early language learning is also discussed as part of the European Commission’s more general strategy for Early Childhood Education and Care.