As an early start in foreign language learning is increasingly being institutionalised, it seems to be appropriate to reflect on the methodologists’ implicit images of children as foreign language learners and on the assumptions in the early start programs of what is right or wrong for children. Four aspects that are open to controversy are being referred to: 1) the interpretation of the term „child-oriented/developmentally appropriate“; 2) the decision to start at a certain age; 3) the communicative approach; 4) the definition of what is easy or difficult for young learner.
Early language learning is critically discussed by considering its possible negative impact on different types of learners. While there is till a chance of counteracting rigidity in children’s perception, it is proposed to introduce them to various languages at primary level in order to foster their affective and cognitive flexibility, by taking into account the development of their linguistic consciousness, of prejudiced thinking and philosophical reflections.
With the introduction of foreign language teaching at primary schools questions as to the necessary training or further training of the teachers involved have again become important. Foreign language teachers at primary school level should have a good level of language competence and should be in a position to adapt modern methods of foreign language teaching to the requirements at primary schools. Only then will the success of foreign language teaching at this level be guaranteed.