Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Do Prospective Classroom Teachers Perceive Themselves as Effective and Willing to Teach Young Learners English?

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Do Prospective Classroom Teachers Perceive Themselves as Effective and Willing to Teach Young Learners English?

Article excerpt

Teaching foreign languages to young learners has become critical worldwide (Brewster, Ellis, & Girard, 2004; Cameron, 2001; Doyé & Hurrell, 1997; Edelenbos, Johnstone, &Kubanek, 2006; Ellis, 2004; Ytreberg, 1997). Since the Council of Europe's 1997 publication of a report recommending foreign language integration into primary education, almost all European countries have experienced huge, rapid development in foreign language teaching at primary schools (Calabrese & Dawes, 2008). According to statistics (Eurydice, 2012a, pp. 145-153) compulsory foreign language learning starts at age 3 in Belgium (BE de); 5 in Malta; 6 in Italy, Cyprus, Spain, Croatia, Norway, Austria, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein; 7 in France and Poland; 8 in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia; 9 in Denmark, Hungary, Island, Latvia, Slovenia, and Turkey; 7-9 in Estonia and Finland; 10 in Belgium (BE fr), Belgium (BE nl), and Germany; 6-10 in Portugal; 6- 12 in the Netherlands; 7-16 in Sweden; 11 in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland). The beginning age has even decreased to 7- 8 in Turkey, with compulsory foreign language lessons beginning in 2nd grade at state primary schools. Driscoll (2005) justified this interest in primary modern foreign languages as a reflection of "growing realization that pupils need to be equipped with the competences, attitudes, and skills to cope successfully with the social and economic changes which are transforming life in Europe" (p. 9). From a cognitive-developmental perspective, an early start guarantees better learning, as claimed by supporters of critical period hypothesis [CPH] (Brewster et ah, 2004). First proposed by Lennenberg, CPH suggests that children's innate language acquisition capacity develops only at a certain period, that is, the critical period; experts believe that this period is critical for second language acquisition as well (Gordon, 2007). Madrid (2001) noted, "Pupils who begin the L2 in the kindergarten or in the first phase of Primary Education normally obtain better results in later stages and overcome those who start in the obligatory phase (grade 3, age 8)" (p. 146). In terms of language learning context, compared with adults, early learners are more enthusiastic and lively (Cameron, 2001), more open to conversational interactions as they are risk takers, and feel less anxious or foolish in case of mistakes (King & Mackey, 2007; Komorowska, 1997). Moreover, successful early language learning helps learners develop an open-minded, tolerant, and rich worldview, and awareness of cultural and linguistic diversities, thus contributing to world peace (Aslan, 2008; Council of Europe, 2009; Doyé & Hurrell, 1997; Edelenbos et ah, 2006; Ellis, 2004).

Considering these advantages and recent trends, the quality of successful early foreign language learning has become an issue. In fact, an early foreign language program's success depends mainly on carefully considering the cognitive, affective, physical, and social developmental characteristics and meeting the specific age group's learning needs (Agullo, 2006; Cameron, 2001; Edelenbos et ah, 2006; $ad, 2011; Tost Planet, 1997). Otherwise, an early start may even bring negative consequences because learners' attitudes and judgments are constructed when they first meet the foreign language and are also decisive for their future learning experiences (Djigunovic, 2009; Egel, 2009; Katsuyama, Nishigaki, & Wang, 2008; Schindler, 2006). Thus, "How to teach?" and "Who should teach?" questions become very critical.

How to Teach

That language learning is a lifelong endeavor, which cannot be reduced to attainment of a given and hurried proficiency level, is well accepted (Council of Europe, 2009). Thus, early learning's aim is regarded as psychological, linguistic, and cultural preparation (Brewster et ah, 2004). Rather than teaching the target language's basic structural patterns, which goes against young learners' developmental characteristics (Komorowska, 1997; Moon, 2000; Nikolov, 2009; Ytreberg, 1997), functional communicative skills are mostly prioritized (Nikolov, 2000). …

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