French Learner Language Oral Corpora flloc
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Young Learners Corpus


In order to answer our research questions, testing of the learners’ French language proficiency took place at four different stages: a pre-test, a mid-project test, an end test and a delayed post-test. The pre-test took place prior to the teaching starting and consisted of an interview (questionnaire for Year 7) about previous knowledge of French and general cultural awareness of France and the French language. A receptive picture-based vocabulary test also checked for potential previous knowledge. Half-way through the project, learners were tested by members of the research team through a number of (oral) tasks: a story-telling/picture description task, a role-play, a computer-based vocabulary test and an elicited imitation task. At the end of the study, learners were tested again using similar tasks to document further learning. Finally, a delayed post-test (13 weeks after the end of the teaching) was administered to allow us to analyse the amount of knowledge retained by learners (using similar tasks).

To explore children’s learning strategies, a series of focus group interviews took place with participating pupils (after about 25 contact hours). In these interviews, a member of the research team asked the children about their learning experience, attitudes and motivation.

Here is a summary of the testing schedule:

 Vocabulary testRole-playElicited imitationStory re-tellingNon-word repetitionInterview/questionnaire
Pre-test X         X
Mid-test X X X X    
End-test X X X   X  
Post-test X X X     X

Vocabulary test

The receptive vocabulary test is a computer-based test. The participant hears a French word (with its definite article when it is needed) using headphones. After hearing the word, they have to make a choice between four images displayed on the screen. The French word is repeated until the participant clicks on one of the images displayed. The pre-test contains 20 words plus a practice word in English to start with. The other tests contained 50 items. The items were picked based on the input of the lessons taking into consideration such factors as frequency, context, proximity to English etc.


The role-play task is given to learners in pairs or small groups. This task was designed to provide evidence on children’s interactive discourse (conversation), productive vocabulary, and morphosyntactic development. The researcher has an age- and gender-appropriate doll/cartoon character, plus a small bag containing various miniature objects (fruits, pet animals, pens, etc) , and a French flag . The doll (manipulated by the researcher) introduces herself in French, asks questions of the children about their names, ages, families and hobbies and then asks the children in turn to choose an object from the bag and to describe it (colour, name, etc). They also play ' Jacques a dit ' ( ' Simon says ' ) with the doll. The task was slightly different at each round (with a few new elements introduced each time). This task was adapted from the DCSF-funded project Primary modern languages: a longitudinal study of language learning at Key Stage 2.

Elicited imitation

This task is given to the learners on a one to one basis. The learners are presented with a set of four pictures one at a time, and for each picture they hear a set of sentences. They hear the pre-recorded sentences one at a time and then they have to repeat them back to the researcher. Their responses are recorded. The pictures are used so the sentences are given a context. The language content of the sentences used was selected based on the learners' language input and production in lessons before the task was administered. Most of the sentences were restricted in length between 5 and 9 syllables. However some were longer to avoid a ceiling effect for the year 7 learners. Two comprehension questions were asked after each set of sentences to ascertain if any processing for meaning had taken place.


The pupils were asked to re-tell a story called Je n’ai pas d’amis (Butler, Dawson, Teal and Milner, 2009) while being able to flick through the different images making up the story (the images had had the text removed and replaced by pictorial prompts). The pupils had heard that story many times during the lessons: the teacher told it and children repeated it as a plenary or they enacted it in smaller groups). A sample of the story is available here.

Non-word repetition

This test was performed once by the children in order to obtain a working memory score. The test used is from: Gathercole SE and Baddeley AD (1996) Nonword Memory Test. (Available from the authors on request)