Research Project

Esperanto as a Starter Language

Principal Investigator
Dr Karen Roehr-Brackin and Dr Angela Tellier

Can Esperanto help to enhance children's metalinguistic awareness?

Dr Angela Tellier and Dr Karen Roehr-Brackin have investigated the question of whether the learning of Esperanto – a constructed language that is entirely regular and transparent – can enhance children’s metalinguistic awareness and their subsequent learning of other languages in primary school.

Working with several classes of 8 to 9-year-old children in Year 4 of primary school, it was found that if the teaching and learning of Esperanto was combined with explicit form-focused activities, children’s metalinguistic awareness developed significantly and to a greater extent than the metalinguistic awareness of children who learned a language without receiving explicit form-focused instruction (Esperanto, German or Italian).

Subsequent language learning (of French, with explicit form-focused activities) was similar in all children, regardless of the type of ‘starter language’ instruction they had received.

pupils in classroom
Resources for teachers

View some of the teaching materials from our research. See some examples from the Esperanto, Italian, German and French classes for 8 to 9-year-old children.

Download the PDF

Key publications

Esperanto as a tool in classroom foreign language learning in England

Previous work has examined the potential of Esperanto as a pedagogical tool in classroom foreign language learning in England, where limited language input of sometimes as little as one hour per week is the norm. The work reviewed here focuses on child learners aged 6 to 12 and was carried out between 2006 and 2016. This paper includes further research into the potential benefits of using form-focused instruction (based on any language) with children as well as the effects of learning Esperanto in novice adult learners.

View the abstract online or download the full paper at John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Raising children’s metalinguistic awareness to enhance classroom second language learning

In this paper we propose that Esperanto may facilitate the development of metalinguistic awareness and, as a consequence, boost children’s budding capacity for explicit learning.

View the abstract online or download the full paper at De Gruyter.

Metalinguistic awareness in children with differing language learning experience

In this paper we suggest that learning Esperanto may have a lasting levelling effect, reducing differences between children with varying metalinguistic abilities.

View or download the full paper in our research repository.

The development of language learning aptitude and metalinguistic awareness in primary-school children: A classroom study

In this paper we examined whether the teaching and learning of either Esperanto or French would facilitate the development of language learning aptitude and metalinguistic awareness in 8-9-year-old children (N=28), thus setting the scene for enhanced explicit learning even at a young age. We found that language-analytic ability emerged as a significant predictor of L2 achievement in the sample as a whole.

View or download the full paper in our research repository.

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Get in touch
Centre for Research in Language Development throughout the Lifespan (LaDeLi) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ
Telephone: 01206 872083
Research in Primary Languages (RiPL) University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ