French Learner Language Oral Corpora flloc
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Progression Corpus

The learners

Total number of learners:

Age of learners:

Location of learners:

When selected, the learners in the study were aged 11-12 years and in their first year of secondary education (Year 7 in the UK system). This was also their first year of learning French, the most commonly taught foreign language in UK schools. The project aimed to track the cohort of 60 learners for a two-year period, or six school terms; in practice the main study ran from the second term of Year 7 (spring 1994) until the first term of Year 9 (autumn 1995), inclusive. The learners (30 boys, 30 girls) attended School 1 and School 2, two 11-16 publicly funded comprehensive schools in Southern England. School 1 was a large (11 form entry) school in an urban area, with a socially mixed intake; School 2 was a smaller (five form entry) school in a rural area, with a more middle class intake.

At the time the fieldwork began, each school operated a policy of 'mixed ability' teaching of French in Year 7, with some regrouping of learners by perceived ability from Year 8 onwards. In Year 7 therefore, the study began with observation of eight intact mixed ability classes, four in each school, from which the 60 learners were subsequently selected, on the basis of teacher perceptions of individual ability. Learners with formally identified special educational needs were first of all excluded from the selection process. Teachers were then asked to divide the remaining learners in their Year 7 classes into three groupings having ‘high’, ‘mid’ and ‘low’ potential for foreign language learning, and the sample was selected randomly by the research team in order to represent each of these groupings in a balanced way. (The representative nature of the cohort overall was validated by the results of a vocabulary test administered later: see Mitchell & Dickson 1997.) The schools agreed that the learners would take part each term in a data elicitation ‘Round’ (a cluster of oral activities, individual or paired, which generated c20 minutes of recorded speech per child on each occasion).

The learner cohort proved very stable, with only two learners leaving before completion of the research.