Children’s multilingualism and teaching French as a foreign language in a primary classroom in England

Kayser, Katharina Maria. 2019. Children’s multilingualism and teaching French as a foreign language in a primary classroom in England. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In England, schools are now required to introduce a foreign language at primary level, necessitating class teachers to teach a language in which they may have little to no experience. At the same time, many catchment areas boast high percentages of children who are fluent in more than one language.

The rising number of multilingual children in England’s schools in recent decades suggests that this could impact on the classroom, particularly when it comes to teaching foreign languages. However, few studies have specifically addressed multilingualism in the primary school’s foreign language lesson. There has been little discussion about teachers who are inexpert in regard to the relevant subject knowledge and the difficulties they may face.

This study aims to investigate the role of children’s multilingualism when being taught French as a foreign language in a Key Stage 2 primary school classroom by a teacher with limited knowledge of French.

The study adopts an ethnographic approach employing observations, interviews and language diagrams for data collection within a single classroom of thirty pupils, all multilingual.

Findings suggest that the teacher’s language limitations and approach to teaching may have a bearing on the classroom dynamics, specifically, the reversal of the assumed expert-novice roles, and what I refer to as windows of opportunity - for teachers and schools as well as for policy. The findings also suggest that the children perform their identities differently according to situation. While children could benefit from their multilingualism, it was found that they have reduced possibilities for using all languages at their disposal at school compared to home and community.

The study could contribute to a better understanding of multilingualism in the mainstream classroom and may offer ideas for finding ways in which children’s multilingualism can contribute to the learning process within the foreign language classroom.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Multilingualism, language education, foreign language learning, multilingual learning, identity, learner community, England, primary school, French, sociocultural perspective, ethnographic approach

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


30 November 2019

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

03 Dec 2019 13:53

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:15


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