Teaching Young Language Learners

  • Marianne NikolovEmail author
  • Jelena Mihaljević Djigunović
Reference work entry
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


The chapter focuses on the main trends and issues in teaching English as an additional language to young learners, a growing field of interest to both practicing teachers and researchers. By young language learners, we mean that learners fall within the age range between 6 and 14, although we are aware of a growing number of programs for younger children. Lowering the start of English learning to the pre-primary age (below 6 years) is an emerging field of study; however, this age group is beyond the scope of this chapter.

The-younger-the-better position, which still prevails in most contexts world over, is reconsidered by taking into account findings of studies on classroom practices and evidence of achieved learner outcomes. Based on a critical overview of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies on teaching English to young learners in different contexts, this chapter discusses what pedagogical principles current practices rely on and how they are implemented. The first part considers how young learners develop in English: what kind of processes is involved and what teachers should know about them. The second part focuses on factors internal and external to learners resulting in differences in English language development: how individual differences, parents, teachers, and extracurricular exposure to English impact learning and achievements over time. The third part discusses language policy, curricula, and transition, whereas the fourth one presents age-appropriate tasks and assessment approaches conducive to young learners’ successful learning of English. The chapter draws on evidence from classroom-based studies and proposes topics for further research.


Young learners English as an additional language Instructed early language learning Individual learner differences Task types Language exposure Feedback and assessment for learning Teacher competence 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianne Nikolov
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jelena Mihaljević Djigunović
    • 2
  1. 1.University of PécsPécsHungary
  2. 2.University of ZagrebZagrebCroatia

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