Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



College of Education and Human Services


Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies

Committee Chair

Joy Faini Saab.


In 2002 the European Union declared multilingualism and life-long language learning to be two goals that it will pursue for its citizens. As a result, member states have introduced language learning at the elementary school level, and have shown an ever increasing interest in implementing second language programs designed specifically for children under the age of seven. This is a welcome change for European educators who are already working in early childhood language programs or who plan to establish new programs and have been looking for support for their endeavors. Yet despite recent progress, scholarly research into this arena remains limited.;This dissertation attempts to address the lack of scholarship in this field by presenting the findings of a case study I conducted in three early childhood language programs in Austria, Germany, and the United States. I used aspects of grounded theory in the analysis of the data that was obtained through observation, interviews with participating educators, and questionnaires presented to teachers and parents. Through this qualitative inquiry, I analyzed several aspects of language learning while seeking a holistic description of their application. The aspects studied included multilingualism, curriculum, approach, instructional strategies, and the role of teachers and students.;The study's results showed both commonalities and differences in the programs' features, allowing for an understanding of the characteristics and complexity of early childhood language learning to emerge in relation to the approaches and methodologies imbedded in the programs. I found that the child, with his or her language competence, age, and personality, is at the center of early childhood language learning. Each child makes choices concerning the form that his or her verbal and non-verbal language participation will take while considering the situation and person involved in the application. Both teachers and children guide, facilitate, and interact throughout the applied curriculum, strategies, and program environment. These facets define each child's path on the language-difficulty continuum. The paths overlap, creating a tapestry in which the children attempt to become verbal members of the target language environment.