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Learning Languages, v18 n2 p44-48 Spr-Sum 2013

In a non-immersion, preschool world language program, what learning outcomes are reasonable to expect? Since exposure to and engagement with new languages is typically limited in these so-called "low-input" programs, we should anticipate no more than modest gains in linguistic proficiency. Rather, early childhood language programs can, and often do, focus on fostering positive attitudes toward languages, language learning and speakers of other languages, and on laying the groundwork for subsequent language study. Another plausible objective in such early language learning programs can be establishing foundations for development of intercultural communicative competence. However, what development of intercultural competence looks like and how it is achieved through teaching and learning interactions, especially with preschool-aged learners, remains unclear. The authors describe the "Awakening to World Languages" program and share excerpts from classroom interactions that occurred in several preschools in Buffalo, New York to illustrate what it means for very young children to build the foundations for intercultural competence through their experiences with new languages, namely through processes of awareness-raising. The authors review Byram's (1997) concept of intercultural communicative competence with special attention to the role of awareness in his model, and then turn to data from their previous research to make clearer what we can expect in terms of developing intercultural competence among the youngest of school-going language learners.

Descriptors: Cultural Awareness, Intercultural Communication, Second Language Learning, Second Language Programs, Second Language Instruction, Preschool Education, Program Descriptions, Classroom Communication, Outcomes of Education, Communicative Competence (Languages), Consciousness Raising

National Network for Early Language Learning. Winston-Salem, NC. e-mail: nnell[at]; Web site:

Autor: Kearney, Erin; Ahn, So-Yeon


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