Learning and Using English: The Views of Learners at the End of Compulsory Education

  • Hafdís IngvarsdóttirEmail author
  • Ásrún Jóhannsdóttir
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 34)


This study was carried out amongst students in grade ten at the end of their primary education (lower secondary school). The study set out to investigate students’ views and use of English in and outside of school including their present and anticipated future use of English. Data was collected in schools throughout Iceland with 703 students participating. The findings support emerging evidence of Icelandic students’ extensive receptive use of English outside the classroom, even from an early age in some instances. A gap was identified between learners’ use of English in school and their use of English outside the classroom calling into question the relevance of the prevalent teaching pedagogy in grade ten. Traditional foreign language teaching methods seem still to be prevalent and the extramural English students are exposed to seems to for the most part to be ignored in the classroom. The results highlight the need for a more pragmatic instructional approach, taking into account the learners’ interests in English, their present and future use and need for English proficiency. The study indicates that important aspects promoted in the National Curriculum Guide have not found their way into the classroom. These include an emphasis on learner autonomy, e.g. learners’ metacognitive awareness and learner’s skills in monitoring and assessing their own proficiency.


  1. Arnbjörnsdóttir, B. (2007). English in Iceland: Second language, foreign language or neither? In B. Arnbjörnsdóttir & H. Ingvarsdóttir (Eds.), Teaching and learning English in Iceland. In honour of Auður Torfadóttir (pp. 51–69). Reykjavík: Stofnun Vigdísar Finnbogadóttur.Google Scholar
  2. Arnbjörnsdóttir, A., & Ingvarsdóttur, H. (2007). Teaching and learning English in Iceland. In honour of Auður Torfadóttir. Reykjavík: Stofnun Vigdísar Finnbogadóttur/ Háskólaútgáfan.Google Scholar
  3. Baumgardner, R. J., & Brown, K. (2003). World Englishes: Ethics and pedagogy. World Englishes, 22(3), 24–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bolton, K. (2005). Where we stands: Approaches, issues, and debate in world Englishes. World Englishes, 24(1), 69–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braine, G. (2010). Nonnative speaker English teachers: Research, pedagogy, and professional growth. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bruthiaux, P. (2010). World Englishes and the classroom: An EFL perspective. TESOL Quarterley, 44(2), 365–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Canagarajah, S. A. (1999). Resisting linguistic imperialism in English teaching. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Dimova, S., Hultgren, A. K., and Jensen, C. 2015. English-medium instruction in European higher education: Review and future research. In S. Dimova, A. K. Hultgren, & C. Jensen (Eds.), English-Medium Instruction in European Higher Education (Language and social life Vol. 4, pp. 317–324). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.Google Scholar
  9. Dörnyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. IMG Gallup. (2005). Fræðslumiðstöð Reykjavík. Tölvunotkun í grunnskólum [The use of ITC in primary school]. Reykjavík: IMG Gallup.Google Scholar
  11. Jeeves, A. (2010). English at secondary school: Perceptions of relevance. Ráðstefnurit Netlu – Menntakvika 2010. Netla – Veftímarit um uppeldi og menntun og Menntavísindasvið Háskóla Íslands.
  12. Jeeves, A. (2014). The relevance of English language learning in a changing linguistic environment in Iceland: The L2 self of young Icelanders. Multilingual Matters, 33(3–4), 267–290.Google Scholar
  13. Jenkins, J. (2014). English as a Lingua Franca in the International University. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Kachru, B. (1985). Standards, codification and sociolinguistic realism: The English language in the outer circle. InEnglish in the world: Teaching and learning the language and literatures (pp. 11–30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Kohonen, V. (2007). The European language portfolio (ELP): Fostering student autonomy, awareness and ownership in foreign language education. In B. Arnbjörnsdottir & H. Ingvarsdóttir (Eds.), Teaching English in Iceland (pp. 51–78). Reykjavík: The Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute and Iceland University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Kristjánsdóttir, L., Bjarnadóttir, L., & Lefever, S. (2006). Úttekt á enskukennslu í grunnskólum veturinn 2005–2006 [Report on the teaching of English in lower secondary schools]. Reykjavík: Ministry of Culture and Science.Google Scholar
  17. Little, D. (2006). The common European framework of reference for languages: Content, purpose, origin, reception and impact the classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Llurda, E. (2004). Non-native-speaker teachers and English as an international language. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 14(3), 314–323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. National Curriculum Guide. (1999). Reykjavik: Ministry of Science and Culture.Google Scholar
  20. National Curriculum Guide. (2006). Reykjavik: Ministry of Science and Culture.Google Scholar
  21. National Curriculum Guide. (2011). Reykjavik: Ministry of Science and Culture.Google Scholar
  22. Pennycook, A. (1994). The cultural politics of English as an international language. Harlow: Longman Group Limited.Google Scholar
  23. Ranta, E. (2010). English in the real world vs. English at school – Finnish English teachers’ and students’ views. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 20, 156–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Statistics Iceland. (2014). Computer and Internet usage in Iceland the highest in Europe. Retrieved November 10, 2016,
  25. Sundqvist, P., & Sylvéen, L. K. (2016). Extramural English in teaching and learning. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hafdís Ingvarsdóttir
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ásrún Jóhannsdóttir
    • 2
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland
  2. 2.School of HumanitiesUniversity of IcelandReykjavíkIceland

Personalised recommendations