en  fr  de
  1. Accueil
  2.  > 
  3.  > 
    Programme 2020-2023
  4.  > 
    Parcours linguistiques des jeunes enfants
  5.  > 
    language learning

Parcours linguistiques des jeunes enfants

Cette page sera disponible en français en 2024. Veuillez vous référer aux pages en anglais pour le moment.

Language learning pathways: multiple dimensions and actors 

Language learning is a continuous process that takes place in all areas of the child’s life: the home, the community, and the education system. Language learning is part of the holistic development of the child. Successful language learning will consider the needs and interests of the child, as well as their existing linguistic repertoire (the languages they know and use) and their socio-cultural context. The different domains in which children use and learn languages all contribute to their overall development and language learning journey. 

Different actors and stakeholders play different roles in supporting children on their language learning journey; this includes international policies, cultural and local practices, the education system and the extended family, the school, the community, and the parents.

(inter)national treaties
and policies (Inter)national policies such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognise the importance of traditions and values for children’s development; including the right to use a language that is different from the context in which the child is living. Plurilingual and intercultural education has been recognised by the Council of Europe as contributing to social cohesion.
cultural and
societal practices Cultural and societal practices play an important role in how languages are viewed, taught, and used – in society and in the education system. The way in which languages and cultures are represented in the wider society can impact on the learning process – this includes how the language itself but also the associated culture, the countries where it is spoken, and the speakers are viewed.
system Each education system will make different provisions for the teaching and learning of languages – with expectations set out in the curricular frameworks. These provide the framework for the (formal) observation, documentation, and assessment of languages within the school and classroom.
school &
classroom Schools and classrooms are the microcosm of society: they are places where different children come together to play, learn, and grow as individuals. The ethos of the school towards language and culture influences how children view their own language and culture and that of others.
and family The home, parents, and the wider family play an important role in supporting children in developing their linguistic and cultural practices and their identity. Parents have a unique opportunity to support their child’s language skills through everyday interactions, stories, songs, and cultural practices. Parents should use the language(s) they feel most confident in with their child; this will foster a strong sense of identity and culture.
child Children learn about themselves and their identity through the interactions with their environment, both their immediate environment – the home and the family, the school and the classroom but children are also influenced by wider societal practices and expectations.

Adapted from Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (1977)

What are “language learning pathways”?

Language learning pathways describe the different ways in which children learn and acquire languages (or language varieties). This language learning takes place both within and outside of the educational system and can include the language(s) of schooling and the education system, home and family language(s), language(s) used in the community, but also additional languages taught within the education system as part of the curricular guidelines. 

Some of the individual learner’s pathways will be (partially) shared with other children – for example the development of competences in the language(s) of schooling or the additional taught as part of the curricular guidelines. Other language learning pathways will be more unique to the child; this might include instances where the home language is different from the language used or taught in the education system. This means that there may not be systems in place to observe, assess and document progress along the language learning pathway. 

Read more

Language(s) of the homeThe language(s) of domestic communication & language(s) acquired in early childhood.

Community language(s)Language(s) used in the social interactions in the community.

Language(s) of schoolingThe dominant language(s) of learning & teaching. It includes language as a subject and language in other subjects.
Family language(s)Language(s) used by the (extended) family.
Additional language(s) learned in school Any additional language(s) learned in the education system as part of the formal curricular guidelines.

Examples of language learning pathways

The following three examples show how the different ways in which children learn (learning pathways) affect learners’ profiles. The presentations offer a variety of activities for teacher development as well as learner activities proposing language learning pathways unique to the child.

Profile 1: Kevin 

Profile 2: Neslihan

Profile 3: Yasmine

These examples are taken from the ECML resource website Teaching the language of schooling in the context of diversity (MALEDIVE). The MALEDIVE website offers study materials for pre-service and in-service teacher education.

Language of the home and community: English
The language of the home is Scottish English - a variety of English. This is also the language that is spoken in the wider community.

Other: language exposure
Visiting Spanish-speaking countries means some exposure to Spanish. Urdu-speaking friends means some knowledge of basic greetings and phrases.

Language of schooling: Gaelic
The language used for learning is Gaelic, a minority heritage language of Scotland. All curricular content is taught through the medium of Gaelic, a language that is not used in the community.
Family language: Dutch
The language used by the (extended) family is Dutch. This is the language that is used when visiting family in the Netherlands.
Additional language learned in school: French
The education system also makes provision for the teaching of another language, in this case French. There are also other opportunities to learn about different cultures and language during class project work: for example Scots, Chinese and Japanese.