Children’s Incidental Learning of English Through Cartoons: An Italian Case Study

Conference: The European Conference on Language Learning (ECLL2022)
Title: Children’s Incidental Learning of English Through Cartoons: An Italian Case Study
Stream: Plurilingualism - Bilingualism
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Rosalia Di Nisio, Università degli Studi di Udine, Italy


The presentation concerns the experience of two young Italian children acquiring English incidentally while enjoying cartoons in a domestic environment. The data - provided by the logs kept by an observer in a longitudinal study over several years - are investigated to reconstruct the main steps of the process, from comprehension to oral expression. Unlike most of the literature about similar cases, which focuses on vocabulary learning, the language perspective chosen in this analysis never considers words separately: the evidence given by the two children does not show language as a set of isolated items, but as formulaic sequences, also used as speech acts, gradually developing into more complex cohesive texts. Through a linguistic description, the research study attempts to establish a parallel between the children’s experience and Halliday's view (1976) of the mother-tongue learning process as social and cultural practice: thanks to the viewers' emotional participation in their heroes' adventures, the virtual world portrayed in the cartoons becomes the social context where communication takes shape according to shared pragmatic rules. The presentation includes advantages and disadvantages of early foreign language learning when formal education starts, and some advice for teachers on how to face related classroom management.

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