Integrating language education into everyday life: "Essential for the educational biography"

2021-04-13 Only those who are proficient in the language of instruction and participate in a learning community have a chance for a successful school career. Based on the results of a three-year study on language education integrated into everyday life in day-care centres, the book "Fühlen Denken Sprechen" (Feeling Thinking Speaking) has now been published. Dr. Maria von Salisch, a professor of developmental psychology, explains why young children should talk more about their inner lives and their impressions of the outside world.

"Roughly two-thirds of all children growing up multilingually come into contact with the German language for the first time in the day-care centre," says Maria von Salisch. For three years, she and an interdisciplinary team from the universities of Lüneburg, Braunschweig and Hildesheim conducted research in almost 20 day-care centres and developed a concept on language learning strategies integrated into everyday life with a focus on emotions and science education. "Language promotion is particularly efficient between the ages of three and eight. After that, the window closes. The sooner children come into contact with the German language, the greater the likelihood that they will succeed in acquiring the language of education," says Maria von Salisch. International studies prove the importance of language skills for school success: those who master the language of instruction also keep up in class.

Until now, additional activities such as afternoon remedial classes were supposed to close the gap. However, studies confirm that these formats have only a limited effect. Language education integrated into everyday life, on the other hand, is promising: "Our results show that the children's linguistic development has improved significantly in sentence comprehension, grammar and sentence memory," says Maria von Salisch. Language education integrated into everyday life provides constant learning opportunities in the day care centre, for example when talking about tying shoes or looking at a picture book. The specially trained pedagogical staff follow the children's interests and talk to them about what they are doing, casually correcting mistakes by repeating them correctly, thus promoting the children's language competence.

The use of child-centred language learning strategies facilitates conversations about feelings and observations in the outside world. Children are supported in describing their environment and exploring it together. In doing so, they learn parts of the educational language as it will later be used in natural science lessons at school. But knowing and naming emotions is no less important, explains Maria von Salisch: "School is a learning community. Language makes it easier for children to understand, reflect on and share their own and others' emotional experiences." In a meta-study with over 6000 participants between the ages of three and 12, the researcher has already been able to prove the positive connection between knowledge of emotions and academic and social success at school.

The “Fühlen Denken Sprechen” intervention is designed for educational staff in day care centres. The educators received training at the beginning of the study and were accompanied by an assistant with video coaching during the practical transfer. The study "Fühlen Denken Sprechen" (Feeling Thinking Speaking) with the title "Professionalisation of Language Education Integrated into Everyday Life for Children Growing Up Monolingually and Multilingually" was funded by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth within the framework of the Federal-State Initiative "Education through Language and Writing". The project was coordinated and led by Prof. Dr. Maria von Salisch (Leuphana University Lüneburg), Prof. Dr. Claudia Mähler and Prof. Dr. Peter Cloos (University of Hildesheim), and Prof. Dr. Katja Koch (Technical University Braunschweig).


  • Prof. Dr. Maria von Salisch
  • Dr. Katharina Voltmer
  • PD Dr. Marcus Pietsch
  • Prof. Dr. Oliver Hormann
Maria von Salisch in front of the Zentralgebäude ©Leuphana/Marvin Sokolis
"Language makes it easier for children to understand, reflect on and share their own and others' emotional experiences."