Cambridge University Polish lessons test language skill

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Children in Cambridge are learning Polish in the school holidays as part of a language research programme.

Run by Cambridge University, the lessons will contribute to an international project to determine how children and adults learn languages.

Researchers hope to find out if a person's mother tongue or age affects their ability to learn a language.

Polish was chosen as it would be unfamiliar to most of the learners, a project spokeswoman said.

Groups of adults in the UK, France, Germany and the Netherlands will be taught the same course as the children, by the same teacher.

Dr Henriëtte Hendriks, from the Department of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at Cambridge University, said: "The idea is that kids might do something different to adults when they approach language learning.

'Utilise information'

"We've chosen Polish because it's an interesting language with a lot of different endings of words.

"It's not a very familiar language in any of the countries we're working in, although there are a lot of Polish people in them all."

The joint project - Varieties of Initial Learners in Language Acquisition (VILLA) - includes researchers from the University of Paris 8, University of Osnabrueck, Radboud University Nijmegen, and the University of York, together with the Cambridge team.

"One of the main things we want to find out is, when you're surrounded by a new language, what do you do to 'get' that language," Dr Hendriks said.

"Do you try and find words that you know, that are familiar? Do you pay attention to the order of words in a sentence?"

"Of course, with Polish there is also the idea of integration and strengthening communities, but this is very much a research idea."

Dr Hendriks is looking for more 10-year-old children to take part in the two-week programme which begins on Monday.

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