What is the project about?

In England, all learners are expected to learn another language at primary school from the age of 7. While generally speaking young learners are very positive about such learning, when they move into secondary school, their motivation and progress can decline.

This project aimed to track the progress and preparedness of young learners of French in England as they moved from primary to secondary school. It explored whether an ‘oracy-based approach’ or a ‘literacy-based approach’ leads to better outcomes for learners, in terms of their language knowledge and readiness for further language study at secondary school.

The study tracked approximately 250 learners of French from 10 schools as they moved from Year 5 to Year 6 and then into Year 7. In half of the schools teachers were judged to take an ‘oracy’ approach, focusing on listening and speaking skills; in the remaining schools, teachers were judged to take a ‘literacy’ approach which incorporated reading and writing skill development as well. Learners completed language tests and motivation questionnaires in each year to evaluate their progress in the French language and the development of their motivation for learning French over time.

Key findings were that both the oracy and literacy approaches led to very similar outcomes for learners. More important factors were how much French teaching they received each week in primary school (60 minutes being optimal) and how proficient their primary school teacher was in the French language.  Both of these elements continued to have an influence on learners’ outcomes when they reached secondary school. In addition, learners were more motivated when they felt they were making progress in their French learning.

Who is running the project?

The project was run by Professor Suzanne Graham at the University of Reading.

Who is funding the project?

The project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Find out more

The final project report and key recommendations can be found on the Nuffield Foundation website.

A key outcome of this study was the development of a computer game in a range of foreign languages aimed at helping language learners and their teachers gain a sense of how much progress they are making. The game, The Language Magician, is used across Europe and is available freely.