University of Oulu

Nils Jaekel, Michael Schurig, Isabelle van Ackern, Markus Ritter, The impact of early foreign language learning on language proficiency development from middle to high school, System, Volume 106, 2022, 102763, ISSN 0346-251X,

The impact of early foreign language learning on language proficiency development from middle to high school

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Author: Jäkel, Nils1; Schurig, Michael2; van Ackern, Isabelle3;
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Finland
2Technische Universität Dortmund, Germany
3Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-04-26


Early foreign language instruction has become the norm across Europe. Expected benefits for students include linguistic advantages and ease of learning the second language (L2). However, research rarely supports these assertions. The present study investigated the receptive skills of two cohorts of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners in Years 5, 7, and 9 in Germany. The cohorts differed in their age of EFL onset in elementary school and, consequently, in the amount of exposure before secondary school. Linear mixed model analyses were employed to account for the hierarchical structure of the data. Learners with an earlier start performed better in Years 5 and 9 than late starters, suggesting possible long-term benefits of an earlier start. In Year 7, late starters scored higher on the proficiency assessment. Across the Year 5–9 span, the effects of learner characteristics’ on English proficiency remained stable for gender, L1, grades, cognitive abilities, and cultural capital.

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Series: System
ISSN: 0346-251X
ISSN-E: 1879-3282
ISSN-L: 0346-251X
Volume: 106
Article number: 102763
DOI: 10.1016/j.system.2022.102763
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 516 Educational sciences
6121 Languages
Funding: This research was in part funded by the Mercator Stiftung.
Copyright information: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (