Start Small, Build Tall. Insights from Studies with Young EFL Learners

The growing demand for discourse competence in global communication has contributed to the expansion of the teaching of English as a foreign language at primary level (TEFL-PL). Likewise, it has triggered intense research into the effectiveness of early foreign language teaching. Promising empirical results from various studies and appreciative comments from practitioners have led to an ongoing debate about TEFL-PL in Germany. However, the secretaries of education in two federal states (Baden Wuerttemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia) decided to revert to starting TEFL from year 3 where previously children had started to learn English from year 1 onwards.
This presentation focusses on insights from studies identifying factors that appear to be decisive in effective foreign language education. Drawing on the experiences gained in the TAPS study (Teaching and Assessing Speaking in Primary School), this talk will also suggest several features which support practice-oriented research and may facilitate future approaches to researching oracy. After all, researchers and teachers are seen as important stakeholders, who can strengthen the potential of primary school as a powerhouse of global citizenship education.

Bärbel Diehr was the Chair of Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the University of Wuppertal (2007-2020) and a professor of English studies at the University of Education in Heidelberg (2002-2007). Her research covers a large variety of projects ranging from teaching English as a foreign language in primary schools and lexical learning with electronic dictionaries in secondary schools to critical discourse analysis and information literacy. She received several awards for her contributions to teacher education including the DAAD Com2Uni Award for her PrimA programme (Praktikum im Ausland) for school placements abroad.