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    Inspiring language learning in the early years
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Inspiring language learning in the early years
Why it matters and what it looks like for children age 3-12

What it is
Guiding principles
Inspiring practice
Quiz & FAQ
Links and further reading

Links and further reading

In this section, teachers, teacher educators, parents and policy makers can find informative views on a broad range of areas in relation to Early Language Learning (multilingual education, Early Foreign Language Learning, Language Awareness etc.). The articles, academic papers and useful websites below are all free to access. Many of them can be downloaded in pdf form.

A. ECML resources – resources produced by the ECML

Treasure chest of resources for parents

Here you’ll find inspiring practices from different countries as well as existing ECML tools which can support parents as they home-school their children. All the tools are clearly explained, simple and ready-to-use. There are two treasure chests, one for children age 3-6 and another for children age 6-12: 

FREPA: A framework of reference for pluralistic approaches to languages and cultures

The term pluralistic refers to learning and teaching methods which involve the use of more than one/several varieties of languages or cultures simultaneously during the teaching process. FREPA (French version is known as CARAP) is an ECML publication and website. The publication A Framework of reference for pluralistic approaches to languages and cultures: Competences and resources provides the descriptors of the knowledge, skills and attitudes which could be developed through pluralistic approaches. The website is a practical resource as its main part is a database of in-class activities, categorized according to FREPA descriptors and other elements such as level and language of instruction.

CONBAT+: Content based training and plurilingual/cultural awareness

CONBAT+ tackles in an innovative way the increasing challenge of accommodating learners from a wide range of linguistic and cultural backgrounds in their classrooms by combining plurilingual and pluricultural approaches with content-based instruction. The website offers a training kit, twenty-six content-based didactic units in English, French and Spanish ready to be used in classrooms, as well as a collection of different resources.

PEPELINO: European portfolio for pre-primary educators – The plurilingual and intercultural dimension

This portfolio is designed for educators and teachers in the pre-primary sector, either in initial or in-service training. It encourages personal reflection on the professional skills related to the linguistic and intercultural dimension of working with children. More resources are to be found on the website, including a list of descriptors for professional competences. The portfolio is available in English, French, German and Polish.  

MALEDIVE: Teaching the language of schooling in the context of diversity – Study materials for teacher development

The ideas and information available from the website focus on language teaching and learning which draws on the linguistic and cultural diversity in the classroom for the benefit of all learners. Language teachers (e.g. French in France, Polish in Poland) are supported to integrate learners with other first languages into their classes, to get them to recognise the links between the learners’ or their parents' cultural background and that of the school language – and at the same time to enrich the cultural and linguistic experience of all learners.

EPOSTL: The European portfolio for student teachers of languages – A reflection tool for language teacher education

EPOSTL is a document intended for students in initial teacher education to encourage reflection on the didactic knowledge and skills necessary to teach languages. It helps them to assess their own didactic competences and enables them to monitor their progress and to record their experiences of teaching during the course of their teacher education.

IPPIE: Involving parents in plurilingual and intercultural education

IPPIE is a resource website informing parents and educational practitioners about the cognitive and social benefits of parental involvement in plurilingual and intercultural education. A number of activities are presented which will provide parents and teachers with tools that will help them to work together in plurilingual and intercultural education.

European Day of Languages

The European Day of Languages is celebrated on the 26th of September each year to raise awareness of Europe’s rich linguistic diversity, to recognise the need to diversify the range of languages people learn, and to recognise the need for people to develop some degree of proficiency in two or more languages. The website contains information about the various events that take place for the European Day of Languages across the Council of Europe member states, as well as different activities and games for use in the classroom.

B. Other Council of Europe resources

Framework of reference for early second language acquisition

Within the framework of its social language policy, De Nederlandse Taalunie launched a project that was intended to lead to a common Framework of reference for the early acquisition of a second language by immigrant school children. This framework identifies objectives at meso and micro level for listening, speaking, reading and writing with descriptors for each of these which can be used as a guideline for teachers of pre-school children and other stakeholders in establishing a language policy and promote and evaluate L2 teaching.

Autobiography of intercultural encounters for younger learners

This Council of Europe’s ‘Autobiography of intercultural encounters for younger learners’ is a response to the recommendations of the White Paper on intercultural Dialogue “Living together as equals in dignity” and helps young learners record and reflect on any intercultural encounters they may have in the future or any encounters that they have already had.

A handbook for curriculum development and teacher training. The language dimension in all subjects (2016)

This handbook is a resource for education authorities and practitioners to help them reflect on policy and practice in language education, highlighting the importance of languages across the curriculum as well as a separate subject.

Guide for the development and implementation of curricula for plurilingual and intercultural Education (2016)

This guide is designed to support the implementation of the values and principles of the plurilingual and intercultural education in the teaching of all languages, including foreign, regional or minority, classical languages and the language(s) of schooling. It provides an overview of the issues and principles involved in designing and/or improving curricula and of the pedagogical and didactical approaches which support plurilingual and intercultural education as well as provide examples of how this can be implemented in practice.

Plurilingual and intercultural education as a project (2009)

This report frames the concept of language learning which has been used as the basis for ILLEY and clarifies the concepts of societal multilingualism and individual plurilingualism and the characteristics of plurilingual and intercultural education.

C. European Council

Council Recommendation on a comprehensive approach to the teaching and learning of languages

Along with increasing mobility within the EU and its Member States, there’s a growing need for education and training systems to adapt to the challenges and opportunities posed by Europe’s linguistic diversity. The Council’s proposal, which was adopted in May 2019, aims to promote language learning by the end of compulsory education; introduce into education and training the concept of language awareness; ensure that more language teachers have the opportunity to learn and study abroad; identify and promote innovative, inclusive and multilingual teaching methods using tools and platforms at the EU-level.

D. The benefits of multilingualism and plurilingualism

“The cognitive benefits of language learning – a critical synthesis for Policy, Practice and Research – Findings and implications” (2019)

The results of a study which looks at the evidence for the cognitive benefits of language learning (rather than being bilingual) – the cognitive benefits were found to be in executive function, literacy and health.


“Healthy linguistic diet: the value of linguistic diversity and language learning across the lifespan” (2017)

Being bilingual has many advantages and the use of languages can be seen as part of a healthy lifestyle which encourages and supports lifelong learning.


“Being bilingual gives toddlers an incredible advantage” (2017)

Children who learn a second language have advantages over others that only speak one, and these cognitive advantages can extend beyond the language itself.


“How learning a new language makes you more tolerant” (2017)

Language learning can develop cultural competences and practical intelligence which helps with picking up social cues and developing new ways of understanding other cultures and situations.


"The benefits of a bilingual brain”

There are many cognitive benefits to being bilingual.


“Learning languages: Why bilingual kids are smarter” (2018)

Evidence shows children who speak more than one language can score better in cognitive tests.


“Why it’s okay for bilingual children to mix languages” (2018)

Research has identified a number of cognitive, economic and academic advantages to being bilingual.


“The joys and benefits of bilingualism” (2018)

Bilingualism has cognitive advantages and can also make individuals show more empathy towards others.


“You’re never too old to become fluent in a foreign language” (2018)

Learning a language supports the development of cognitive connections, which can happen at any age.


“How language learning deepens connection” (2018)

Learning a language supports the development of cognitive connections.


“The benefits of speaking more than one language” (2017)

Language is an essential component of how the brain functions throughout life.


“If your child is bilingual, learning additional languages later might be easier” (2017)

A study which suggests that early bilingualism helps with learning languages later in life.


“This is why the language you speak can change how you perceive time” (2017)

Language can influence the way in which time is experienced.


“Speaking dialects trains the brain in the same way as bilingualism” (2016)

Research suggests that the cognitive profile of people speaking two dialects may resemble the one of people who speak two languages.


“Speakers of two dialects may share cognitive advantage with speakers of two languages” (2016)

The ability of children to speak any two dialects – two closely related varieties of the same language – may provide the same cognitive advantages as those reported for multilingual children who speak two or more substantially different languages (such as English and French).


“Scots dialects ʽas good as a second language’” (2017)

Speaking a dialect is as good as learning a second language.


“Bringing up Babel” (2016)

Research has shown that there is a ‘bilingual advantage’ to growing up with multiple languages from birth, including the ability to plan and carry out complex tasks.


The European Observatory for Plurilingualism

The website of the European Observatory for Plurilingualism offers a broad range of themes related to multilingualism/plurilingualism, namely in the field of Education – in 6 different languages!


L’apprentissage (précoce) d’une deuxième langue
(Early second language learning)

The French website gives answers to basic questions on the topic of early second language learning.


E. Multilingual classrooms

“Multilingual children at home and at school – Managing experiences and expectations” (2019)

Parents are a potentially rich source for curriculum input and enrichment activities that goes beyond simply ‘celebrating cultural differences’. Acknowledging the status of the home language(s) at school can be a vital factor in preparing children for super-diversity.


“Why teachers shouldn’t be afraid of other languages being spoken in the classroom” (2018)

This study looks at teachers’ and educators’ attitudes towards multilingualism, as well as their ideas about the use of children’s mother tongue and code-switching.


Affirming identity in multicultural classrooms

Cristina Coscia explores the notion of welcoming students’ home language(s) into the classroom. Although related to English learners’ context, her arguments can be applied to different language learning contexts.


Tidligere sprogstart: Learning foreign languages at an early age – A new approach with emphasis on plurilingualism

Closely aligned with ILLEY principles, this website presents teaching materials (in English, German, French); practical examples (in Danish and English); videos with students and project publications.

Danish and English versions are available.



Developing early foreign language learning and teaching in the Nordic/Baltic context

The main areas of this project cover initial and in-service teacher education course modules addressing the introduction of English, French, German and Spanish using new learning and teaching platforms in the early years and the creation and use of innovative teaching materials.


Finland introduces an earlier start in language learning and teaching (2018)

The following texts and websites present the Finnish Government’s Key Project for Languages which aims to increase and diversify language teaching through regional projects as well as its implementation in the city of Tampere.



SCOTLAND: A 1+2 approach to modern languages

The website supports practitioners in implementing the 1+2 approach to language learning; the Scottish Government’s policy ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn a modern language (known as L2) from P1 until the end of the broad general education (S3). This website contains practical examples, learning maps and the evaluation of pilot programmes, guidance on the introduction and teaching of the third language (L3).


Multilingualism in the early years (2019)

This special edition of TEANGA, the Journal of the Irish Association for Applied Linguistics, contains selected papers from the Multilingualism in the Early Years conference held in the Dublin Institute of Technology in May 2017 reflecting the conference's diversity.


Minority language pupils and the curriculum: Closing the achievement gap (2018)

Papers from a seminar on teaching English as an Additional Language organised by Marino Institute of Education and Corelaine University with the support from the Standing Conference on Teacher Education, North and South (ScoTENS), a cross-border Irish initiative committed to ensuring quality learning and teaching for all.


Why schools should teach young learners in home language (2015)

Article by the British Council which explores the importance of home languages in the education system, especially in the early stages, to ensure an effective development of the basic literacy skills.


Le pouvoir de la langue maternelle et de l’éducation multilingue
(The potential of mother tongues and multilingual education) (2015)

This article highlights the importance of relying on mother tongues as resource for the learning of a new language.


L’éducation plurilingue pour enfants de 1 à 4 ans
(Plurilingual education for children age 1 to 4)

The publication sets the conceptual frame for early language learning in the multilingual Luxembourgish context.


How can teachers maximize engagement among multilingual students? (2019)

Jim Cummins, an internationally acclaimed expert, presents multilingual strategies to use in classrooms. English version :


English as a foreign language in primary education in Cyprus

The site aims to provide information as regards the teaching of EFL in Cyprus and provide professional development support, teaching materials and educational guidelines and suggestions for teachers.


Learning a foreign language at an early age – Fremdsprachen an der Volksschule

The bilingual Swiss website (French-English) provides information and material about learning a foreign language at an early age.


F. Importance of mother tongue(s)

“Bilingual children who speak native language at home have higher intelligence” (2018)

Children who regularly use their native language at home while growing up in a different country have cognitive advantages over monolingual children.


“Mother tongue: the lost inheritance of diaspora” (2017)

Derek Owusu talks about what it means not to speak the language of your ancestors.


“Even if you’ve forgotten the language you spoke as a child, it still stays with you” (2017)

Relearning and regaining your mastery in your mother tongue isn’t easy; it’s one that takes years and you may never sound like you once did as a child.


G. Language learning and teaching research findings

“OASIS – Open Access Summaries in Language Studies”

A fully searchable database of research articles relating to language learning and teaching.


“National Framework for Languages”

Resources for teachers and educators to help them explore and understand their own assumptions about children, young people, languages and literacies in the promotion of plurilingualism.