English in Dutch primary schools: The sooner the better?
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This study looks at the influence of Age Of Learning (AOL) or amount of input (quantity) on Dutch pupils’ proficiency of English. On the one hand, studies in informal settings have shown that starting earlier (AOL) as well as massive exposure to a language (quantity) cause higher language proficiency. On the other hand, studies in formal settings have shown that the amount of input is not enough for AOL or quantity to cause a significant effect on language proficiency. By comparing six primary schools (of which three start early with English instruction and of which three start late), this study wants to find out whether the amount of input that early starters receive at school is enough to reach a higher level of English proficiency than the late starters. This study is different from previous studies conducted on the same topic because the instrument used to test the subjects’ language overall proficiency, the C-test, has a high validity and reliability. The results show that the early starters significantly outperform the late starters, which is in agreement with the current government policy, that promote an early start of instruction in foreign languages in primary schools.