IELTS Writing Task 2
Traditionally, children have begun studying foreign languages at secondary school, but introducing them earlier is recommended by some educationalists. This policy has been adopted by some educational authorities or individual schools, with both positive and negative outcomes.
The obvious argument in its favour is that young children pick up languages much more easily than teenagers. Their brains are still programmed to acquire their mother tongue, which facilitates learning another language, and unlike adolescents, they are not inhibited by self-consciousness.
The greater flexibility of the primary timetable allows for more frequent, shorter sessions and for a play-centred approach, thus maintaining learners’ enthusiasm and progress. Their command of the language in later life will benefit from this early exposure while learning other languages subsequently will be easier for them. They may also gain a better understanding of other cultures.
There are, however, some disadvantages. Primary schools teachers are generalists, and may not have the necessary skill themselves. If specialists have to be brought in to deliver these sessions, the flexibility referred to above is diminished. If primary language teaching is not standardised, secondary schools could be faced with a great variety of levels in different languages within their intake, resulting in a classroom experience which undoes the earlier gains. There is no advantage if enthusiastic primary pupils become demotivated as soon as they change schools. However, these issues can be addressed strategically within the policy adopted.
Anything which encourages language learning benefits society culturally and economically, and early exposure to language learning contributes to this. Young children’s innate abilities should be harnessed to make these benefits more achievable.