As primary school children bound through the first weeks of their summer holidays, perhaps those lucky enough to go abroad will get the chance to practice some of the new vocabulary they’ve learnt in a foreign language class. It’s the end of the first academic year in which languages were introduced formally within the primary school curriculum in England: in September 2014, it became compulsory for all children aged seven and older to learn a foreign language.
There is a widespread belief that if only we could teach foreign languages very early, Britain could stop lagging behind its European counterparts in terms of language capability. But is the earlier the better when it comes to learning a new language?
There is a difference between children immersed in the new language they are learning, for example as immigrants in a new country, and children exposed to a foreign language in the classroom for a few hours a week at best.