For a long time, language learning research focusing on young learners was a neglected field of research. Most empirical studies within the broad area of second/foreign language acquisition were instead carried out among adults in tertiary education and it was not until in the 1990s that the scope of research broadened to include also young learners, then loosely defined as children in primary and/or secondary education (see, for example, Hasselgreen & Drew, 2012; McKay, 2006; Nikolov, 2009a). In fact, some agreement upon how to define ‘young learners’ was not properly discussed until in 2013, when Gail Ellis (2013) provided some useful clarifications as regards how to label learners within the broad age-span that encompasses both primary and secondary school. In short, based on a literature overview, she concludes that the term young learners is most often used for children between the ages of five and eleven/twelve, which in most countries would be equivalent to learners in primary school.
Thus, since young learners did not catch much scholarly attention until fairly recently, research volumes on the topic have been scarce. However, with a rapidly growing interest in examining how small children learn foreign languages, there has been a sudden increase in terms of the number of books available targeting young language learners. A first, major contribution was Nikolov’s (2009b) Early learning of modern foreign languages, in which 16 studies of young language learners from different countries are accounted for. Another important contribution is the edited book that will be reviewed here, which specifically targets studies about various aspects of second/foreign language learning among young (mainly Norwegian) learners. Bearing in mind that Norway and Sweden are very similar countries in terms of schooling, language background, and demographics – only to give three examples of similarities between these two nations – it is particularly relevant for Swedish scholars within the fields of education and second language acquisition to become familiar with research findings from the neighboring country.
In this review, the editors and the outline of the book are first described, then brief summaries of each chapter are provided, before the text closes with an evaluation of the volume.
Karlstad: Karlstad University Press, 2014. Vol. 10, no 1, 15-23 p.