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British Council

English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development

British Council via FutureLearn


Teaching English to children while they’re still learning their mother tongue is a challenging but rewarding prospect. In this online course, you’ll learn how and why children learn best through play. What can parents and practitioners do to enable children to get the most out of a learning experience?

This course for parents and practitioners will explore how young children learn English and investigate many more aspects of early childhood learning and development.

British Council educators will share their insights and experiences, so that you can learn how to best talk to young children; how to create the best environment for them to learn English as an additional language; and how to monitor their progress.

Through articles, videos and live events you will hear from early childhood experts and parents, and see for yourself how young children learn inside the early years classroom. At every stage, you will be offered tips, advice and downloadable resources that will help you with teaching English as a foreign language to children.

This course will be of interest to you if you are: a parent of young children who wishes to support their child learning an additional language; an English teacher or an early childhood practitioner; or someone who is interested in the area of child development and language acquisition.

If English is not your first language please be reassured that this course is suitable for those who have learnt English to around intermediate level (approximately B1 on the CEFR).

The principles of learning an additional language during early childhood apply to all languages, so if you are a parent, teacher or practitioner interested in teaching languages other than English, you will find plenty of relevant methods in the course.


  • How children learn
    • Getting started
    • Early childhood development
    • Children and language aquisition
    • Review
  • Learning through play
    • All play is a form of learning
    • Play is important
    • Creating the right play environment
    • Developing language through play
    • Review
  • How to talk to young children
    • Communicating with young children
    • Talk that encourages a child's emotional development
    • Developing language through interactions
    • Review
  • Learning: English and everything
    • Developing the whole child
    • Learning English in context
    • Guiding the learning experience
    • Everything is connected
    • Review
  • Feeling safe and happy
    • Children learn when they are safe and happy
    • Positive relationships
    • The importance of knowing the child well
    • Enabling environments
    • Review
  • Watching children learn
    • Every child is unique
    • Observation
    • Assessment in the early years
    • Planning: building on what children can do
    • Next steps

Taught by

Sheona Gilmour


4.8 rating, based on 1,418 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at FutureLearn based on 590 ratings

Start your review of English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    Along this week, we reviewed about how to talk to young children, and how their social and emotional well-being is so closely linked to their ability to communicate. There was a video conversation on this week in which educators answered some of the…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    This is my first online training that I have participated in learning with FutureLearn. I enrolled due to the lockdown as the school nursery where I work is obviously closed. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with other students and reading the…
  • At whatever stage you are in your ELT career this course will make you stop and think ... the reflective process is to useful especially to think about your own values and beliefs about what you do and why. I'm half way through the course and my mind is buzzing with ideas whic is exactly what I wanted to happen, so thank you course developers for your careful guidance and I'm looking forward to the second half!
  • A MUST take course for anyone who works with early years (pre-primary and primary 1-3) in order to understand how children learn and how they learn language. Also critical to understand appropriate methods of assessment and making a value judgement about what a child can do and what step is needed next. Observation being key! So thank you course creators, this is a sterling course!
  • Anonymous
    This course is really fantastic. It is really organized course not only for the teaching language but also to understand teaching young child. Along the way of course study, I have felt enjoyment to know more about EYFS frame, how can young children best learn language, observation, assessment and planning. I would like to say thank you to course instructors for your thoughtfulness of course arrangement.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    At the beginning of this course, I was wary about what I would learn that would be "new" to me. Having worked with 2-3 year old's for around 7 years and now working in a very multi-cultural setting in England where I would say at least 70% of our ch…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous is taking this course right now.

    The course is well organised and structured in a very simple manner in such a way that even the learning content is intensive most of the participants can understand and able to do the activities as required. Apart from the administration of the cou…
  • We are currently half way through this amazing course and I cannot express my gratitude and how much I look forward to every week of learning and sharing experiences.

    The guidance, advices and wisdom of Sheona Gilmour and Tracey Chapelton have been splendid, and on top of that they have been sharing such great resources and videos of connotated characters in the early childhood education world.

    I would recommend this course, eyes closed, to practitioners who are interested in learning better approaches to develop English language in early years, how to understand their learning process, learn new technics to improve and encourage their communication skills and oh! so much more!!
  • I think this course is really great for early childhood teachers as well as carers especially. It gives us a lot of helpful information, thoughts, ideas and facts that we must need to know when we care our children or students. There will be no loss if you join this course.

    The most impressive idea that I got is "We should label the actions and not the children" Labeling children in their earlychildhood is really dangerous and it can sometimes lead to bad things to young children.
  • Alla Lisnychenko

    Alla Lisnychenko completed this course.

    The course "English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development" covers essential issues of young children learning: the importance of playing in learning; the ways of motivating, involving, praizing children; developing language in conte…
  • Anonymous
    This course has been very helpful for me. I have learnt a lot of new ideas. Children learn by playing, it is a very important stage for them. As adults, we should provide an appropriate environment for them. Children need time to play. We should va…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I've been teaching children aged 2- 6 for the past 5 years in Hong Kong and Beijing, and I think this course was very informative and I definitely learned a few new things. However, I would have liked more about how to discipline students. Some t…
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I enjoy this course a lot because it teaches me many other ways to encorage child's grow and developement in language acquisition, what children undergo when they acquire their first and language and how they learn a second language. "A child who is…
  • Anonymous
    I have been looking for the course about early childhood during this year and fortunately I found out this course when searching in internet coincidentally , then decided to learn daily on my own pace and realized that this is perfect to me what I searching for right now , I am currently teaching as an early childhood English teacher for my new job and right timing to learn through online when I have free time after work .Finally I just finish my course and applied for digital hard copy certificate through by mail ,hopefully deliver in next month. I would like to recommend everyone that if you are an educators or parent or similar one should take part in this course definitely will be pay off .Thank you!
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Teaching English as an additional or foreign language is challenging. The course "English in Early Childhood: Language Learning and Development" lasts for 6 week with focus on : 1- development stages 2- playing in childhood 3- interaction 4- learnin…
  • Course make teachers learn how to act during classes, how to impact on children and what to do to get them involved in studying process.
  • Ada Glory Edolo
    As a primary school Librarian and teacher, I never thought I could do better in teaching the early years children. Until my elder sister told me about this course December last year. I wondered how I would cope with teaching and raising my two beautiful children. As I cued in, everything our teachers and parents talked about were experiences I have had in one way or another. So, with that motivation, I decided to upgrade and complete the course. The wealth of knowledge gotten from here will go a looong way to help equip and prepare me for the task ahead. Thank you once again.
  • Anonymous
    The course is very informative. I Learnt a lot of new knowledge in teaching english for early years. I myself as a new early year educator, practice the tips and it improve my students and myself as an educator. I felt more confident in teaching and gaining a brighter insight in managing my class and students. I felt lucky to stumble across this course. This course have help me to understand children development more. I recommend this course for parents and early educators as it help me a lot. Thank you for this British Council!
  • Anonymous
    I started this course a year ago but I couldn't finish it until now and since de beggining was very helpful and completed for me. It helps me too much for using the best tool to my little students. Thank you for the bunch of material you provide to us all.
  • Anonymous
    I want to thank the organizer of this course. Helping children develop their language skills and development. By training educators and parents to do it differently through understanding how children learn. This course has helped me personally…

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