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Early foreign language teaching in Germany: Recent political and curricular developments

by Margit Hempel, Markus Kötter & Jutta Rymarczyk (Universities Duisburg-Essen and Siegen & Heidelberg University of Education; Germany)



In 2015, Hempel, Kötter and Rymarczyk organized a survey of the then current curricular requirements in early foreign language teaching in all 16 states in Germany. The results of this survey were published two years later in a publication called Fremdsprachenunterricht in der Grundschule in den Bundesländern Deutschlands: Eine Bestandsaufnahme des Status Quo und seiner gewünschten WeiterentwicklungFive years later, two of the largest states in Germany, Baden-Württemberg (BW) and North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), have not only turned back the clock and moved early FLT back from a start in Year 1 to a start in Year 3, but there are also ongoing debates in other states about the future role of early FLT with regard to regional curricula as well as the manifest need for nation-wide minimal standards of education. 


Our current research project focuses on the recent developments that have taken place in the field since 2015. By means of the research method "document view" we look first at official documents (here: curricular guidelines of BW, NRW and those German states where new curricula have been introduced since 2015). In a second step, we analyse public documents (here: course book material for primary FLT) in order to assess to what extent curricular changes have led to actual changes in the design of topical teaching materials.


Special attention will be paid to the question of how BW and NRW organize the changes in contact time, i.e. how the content of four years of teaching EFL are taught in only two years. Also, we intend to discuss and illustrate new fields of attention for early FLT, e.g. connected to the Phonics Approach (Rymarczyk 2021) and to topics like gender diversity and sustainability (Evans 2015).







Evans, Janet (ed.) (2015). Challenging and Controversial Picturebooks: Creative and Critical Responses to Visual Texts. Abingdon & New York: Routledge.

Hempel, Margit/ Kötter, Markus / Rymarczyk (2017). Fremdsprachenunterricht in der Grundschule in den Bundesländern Deutschlands: Eine Bestandsaufnahme des Status Quo und seiner gewünschten Weiterentwicklung. Berlin u.a.: Peter Lang. Open Access.

Kolb Elisabeth / Klippel, Friederike (2016). “Dokumentensammlung“. In: Caspari, Daniela / Klippel, Friederike / Legutke Michael K. / Schramm, Karen (eds.). Forschungsmethoden in der Fremdsprachendidaktik. Ein Handbuch. 124-132. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto.

Rymarczyk, Jutta (to appear 2021). ”Teachers’ analytical skills in the evaluation of German primary school students’ first attempts to write in English”. In: Frisch, Stefanie / Rymarczyk, Jutta (eds.). Current Research into Young FL and EAL Learners’ Literacy Skills. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. <o:p></o:p>