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    Young children's language learning pathways

Young children’s language learning pathways
Making early language learning visible

The project aims to make early language learning in educational contexts visible through a range of methods and tools. These make it possible to identify, understand and document language learning of children age 3 to 12 and thereby create learning opportunities allowing them to progress along their language learning pathways.

Related resources

Working languages of the project: English, French
Project term: 2020-2023
Shortcut: www.ecml.at/younglearnerpathways      


Main idea

There are different stages in the process of making early language learning visible:

  • Identify language learning and become aware of young children’s existing linguistic potential (including all the languages they know) by looking at and listening to what they are able to achieve, how and why they do it;
  • Understand language learning by linking prior to further learning steps; by linking language learning, young children’s general development and their learning in other areas; by linking language learning to learning outcomes;
  • Support language learning by creating meaningful learning opportunities which consider young children’s developmental stages, interests, talents, needs and prior language learning; by enabling them to be active and to draw upon their whole linguistic repertoire;
  • Document language learning processes and progress by visualizing learning steps and learning pathways; by enabling children as well as parents to become aware of learning and progress.

By putting young children’s language learning pathways at its heart, the project focuses on language learning as a continuous process ranging from use of basic to increasingly complex language.
Observation, assessment and documentation, as integral parts of learning and visualizing learning, are key to the project. Consequently, the project focuses on different forms of classroom observation and ways of documenting children’s learning as well as on main dimensions of assessment e.g. assessment FOR learning, assessment AS learning and assessment OF learning (including formative assessment, self-assessment and peer-assessment).
The exchange of experiences, the sharing of reflections and the discussion of ideas related to observation, assessment and documentation of language learning play an important role in the project.


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Related publication

Inspiring language learning in the early years - Why it matters and what it looks like for children age 3-12
This website helps teachers and other educators to prepare young children to successfully engage in a culturally and linguistically diverse world.

Webinar "PALINGUI – Language learning pathways of young children: How to make language learning visible"

View all webinars

Objectives and outcomes

From a professional’s perspective


  •  become aware of young learner’s existing linguistic potential (including language(s) of schooling, regional, minority, foreign, and home lan-guage(s));
  • develop a broader view/deeper understanding of language learning by recognizing prior learning, integrating language learning across the curriculum, considering children’s and parents’ perspectives;
  • use learner-centred processes and strategies (e.g. different types of assessment and documentation) and create learning opportunities based on young children’s individual potential, interests and needs;
  • know different ways of documenting language learning (e.g. methods, tools); make considered choices and adapt ways to the specificities of a given educational context;
  • consider language learning as a process and mistakes as part of this process and consequently use these to create opportunities for learning;
  • reflect on personal attitudes/beliefs about multilingual-ism/plurilingualism and language learning.
From young learners’ perspectives


  • become aware of their own existing linguistic potential; what they are good at and where they can do even better;
  • identify where they are/have come from on their learning path-way; where they are going; how they get there;
  • learn to use their linguistic potential to achieve next steps.

Target groups

Pre-primary and primary teachers and other professional educational staff as well as teacher educators.

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PALINGUI – Language learning pathways of young children – Making early language learning visible: webinar recording (5 March 2020) online

Take part in the webinar "PALINGUI – Language learning pathways of young children: How to make language learning visible ": Thursday 5 March, 15:30-16:30 (CET)