Researching Oral Production Skills of Young Learners

  • Magdalena Szpotowicz
Keywords: instructed contexts, oral production, speaking tasks, task achievement, young learners of English


This chapter focuses on the development of young learners’ ability to communicate in a foreign language. An empirical study was carried out to determine whether, after four years of learning English as a compulsory school subject, children are ready to engage in oral interaction in a semicontrolled task and produce answers and questions in English. A convenience sample of ten-year-old children was selected from 180 participants in ELLiE2 in Poland. Six learners from one class of each of seven schools were selected on the basis of teachers’ reports to ensure equal proportions of learners with low, medium and high ability. Schools were chosen to represent different socio-economic milieux. The results of the Year Four oral test (an interactive task) showed that almost all the participating children
could  respond to questions but only half were able to ask questions. Considering generally positive attitudes to speaking activities, the results suggest that ten-year-old children are already developing their interactive skills and could benefit from more interaction-focused classroom activities. Further experimental classroom-based studies are necessary to gain better insight into potential oral achievements in this age group. The results are discussed in the context of national curriculum requirements, drawing on the Common European Framework of Reference level descriptors.


Download data is not yet available.


Bachman, L. F, & Palmer, A. (2010). Language Assessment in Practice. Oxford: Oxford University

Brewster, J., Ellis, G., & Girard, D. (2002). The Primary English Teacher’s Guide. New Edition. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Burstall, C. (1975). Primary French in the balance. Foreign Language Annals, 10(3), 245–252.

Butler, Y. G. (2009). Issues in the assessment and evaluation of English language education at the elementary school level: Implications for policies in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. The Journal of Asia TEFL, 6(2), 1–31.

Cameron, L. (2001). Teaching Languages to Young Learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cazden, C. (1972). Child Language and Education. New York: Rinehart & Winston.

Cazden, C., Cancino, H., Rosansky, E., & Schuman, J. (1975). Second Language Acquisition Sequences in Children, Adolescents and Adults. Final Report, US Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

CILT (2006). European Language Portfolio – Junior version. Retrieved 12.6.2012 from

Council of Europe. (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Donato, R., Tucker, G. R., Wudthayagorn, J., & Igarashi, K. (2002). Converging evidence: Attitudes, achievements and instruction in the later years of FLES. Foreign Language Annals, 33(4), 377–393.

Dulay, H., & Burt, M. (1974). Natural sequences in child language acquisition. Language Learning, 24, 37–53.

Ellis, R. (1985). Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Enever, J. (2011). Policy. In Enever, J. (Ed.), ELLiE. Early Language Learning in Europe (pp. 23–42).
London UK: British Council. Retreived form

Fillmore, C. J. (1979). On fluency. In D. Kempler, & W. S. Y. Wang (Eds.), Individual Differences in
Language Ability and Language Behavior (pp. 85–102). New York: Academic Press.

Hasselgreen, A., Kaledaite, V., Maldonado Martín, N., & Pižorn, K. (2011). Assessment of Young
Learner Literacy, linked to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. European Centre of Modern Languages/ Council of Europe. Retreived from

Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe (2008). Brussels: Eurydice.

Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe (2012). Brussels: Eurydice.

Kormos, J. (2006). Speech Production and Second Language Acquisition. Mahwah, New Jersey/
London: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Publishers.

Lindgren, E., & Muñoz, C. (2012). The influence of exposure, parents, and linguistic distance on
young European learners’ foreign language comprehension. International Journal of Multilingualism, pp. 1–25. Retreived form

Luoma, S. (2004). Assessing Speaking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

McKay, P. (2006). Assessing Young Language Learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mihaljevic Djigunovic, J., & Lopriore, L. (2011). The learner: do individual differences matter? In J. Enever (Ed.), ELLiE. Early Language Learning in Europe (pp. 43–60). London UK: British Council.

Mora, J. (2006). Age effects on oral fluency development. In C. Muñoz (Ed.), Age and the Rate of
Foreign Language Learning (pp. 65-88). Clevedon, Buffalo, Toronto: Multilingual Matters.

Muñoz, C. (2007). Age-related differences and second language learning practice. In R. M. DeKeyser, Practice in a Second Language. Perspectives from Applied Linguistics and Cognitive Psychology (pp. 229–255). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Nikolov, M. (1999). ‘Why do you learn English?’ ‘Because the teacher is short.’ A study of Hungarian children’s foreign language learning motivation. Language Teaching Research, 3(1), 33–56.

Pamuła, M., Bajorek, A., Bartosz-Przybyło, I., & Sikora-Banasik, D. (2006). Europejskie portfolio
językowe dla dzieci od 6 do 10 lat. Warszawa: Centralny Ośrodek Doskonalenia Nauczycieli.

Pinter, A. (2006). Teaching Young Language Learners. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Seliger, H. W., & Shohamy, E. (2000). Second Language Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Slattery, M., & Willis, J. (2001). English for Primary Teachers – A handbook of activities and classroom language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Szpotowicz, M., & Szulc-Kurpaska, M. (2009). Teaching English to Young Learners. Warszawa:
Wydawnictwo Szkolne PWN.

Szpotowicz, M., & Lindgren, E. (2011). Language achievements: a longitudinal perspective. In J.
Enever (Ed.), ELLiE. Early Language Learning in Europe (pp.125–143). London UK: British Council.

Wode, H. (1978). The L1 vs. L2 acquisition of English interrogation. Working Papers on Bilingualism, 15, 37-57.
How to Cite
Szpotowicz, M. (2012). Researching Oral Production Skills of Young Learners. Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 2(3), 141-166.