142355-LLP-1-2008-1-DE-COMENIUS-CMP - Early Language and Intercultural Acquisition Studies (ELIAS) - Final Report

Alex Housen, Holger Kersten, Anja Steinlen, Andreas Rohde, Kristin Kersten (Redacteur)

Onderzoeksoutput: Commissioned reportResearch


More than ever before, educational institutions are called upon to prepare young children for the demands of an increasingly globalised world and the challenges of preserving our biosphere upon which all human life depends. In order to provide them with the personal and professional foundations they need to participate in a multilingual and multicultural society and to grow to be responsible European citizens, European education systems must impart sound knowledge of foreign languages, intercultural skills and tolerance, and individual as well as collective environmental awareness. It is critically important to introduce children to such knowledge and skills at the earliest stage possible, i.e. ideally at the start of a lifelong learning process. As numerous studies on early education have demonstrated, children's natural learning strategies and enthusiasm maximise their learning success at a young age.
The most effective method of imparting such knowledge and skills at an early age is a language immersion programme in bilingual preschools, carried out through native speakers of a second language (L2). ELIAS aims to advance Europe-wide establishment of bilingual preschools and collaboration with non-academic educational institutions. A research consortium from nine universities and a zoo monitors young children's learning progress in second language acquisition, intercultural communication, bilingual science skills and environmental awareness in ten bilingual preschools in Belgium, England, Germany and Sweden. Located on the premises of the Magdeburg Zoo, the unique bilingual Zoo Preschool thrives on its proximity to animals and provides an ideal environment for bilingual education for sustainable development ("Green Immersion"). Such collaboration is unprecedented in the world.
ELIAS aims to inform specialists in the European education sector, preschools, schools, research institutions and non-academic cultural institutions (e.g. zoological and botanical gardens, aquariums, museums) and the general public.
Ethnographic participant observation of preschool activities, and a number of standardised and non-standardised tests for language development revealed that:
1. At preschool level, children already learn and successfully apply different strategies of intercultural competence.
2. The children attain a high level of competence in the foreign language (English), whereby language comprehension is in advance of language production. The level of language competence depends on the amount of contact with the language, as well as the language specific teaching methodological principles of the preschool teachers, that is, the way language is used when interacting with the children. Children with migration backgrounds learn the language faster than children with a monolingual German background.
3. The native language is not affected by the intense input in the foreign language, on the contrary: The children's level of German increases developmentally according to their age. Children with migration backgrounds are not as disadvantaged as was initially feared: in line with other studies, it was shown that both languages of the children benefit from an increased language awareness.
4. The children in the zoo preschool show significant progress in terms of bilingual environmental competence ('Green Immersion'). This development was found to depend a lot on the age of the child as well as other individual factors.
ELIAS has produced a series of practical materials such as teacher training modules, Green Immersion teaching modules and a CD ROM, information brochures and guidelines, and a range of presentations on bilingual learning, all of which can be downloaded from the ELIAS website at www.elias.bilikita.org, and notably the two-volume book-publication "Bilingual Preschools", which makes all results accessible to the public after the project's lifetime.
Originele taal-2English
UitgeverijEducation and Culture DC
Aantal pagina's123
Uitgave142355-LLP-1-2008-1-DE-COMENIUS-CMP - Early Language and Interc
StatusPublished - 2011

Bibliografische nota

Kristin Kersten


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