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STarting AGe and Extramural English: Learning English in and outside of school in Norway and Flanders (STAGE)

This project aims to advance our understanding of the relation between language input and language acquisition. The STAGE project will investigate the mechanisms underlying language learning among learners of English as a foreign, second and additional language (L2).

Illustration of 3 children holding the letters STAGE (Illustration by Matilda Salmén).

The STAGE project will provide new insights into the input-acquisition relationship by unraveling the relative contribution of formal instruction and Extramural English to L2 English learners’ English proficiency. (Illustration by Matilda Salmén).

Video about learning English in the first grade

What do some students in the first grade have to say about English? Watch this video from STAGE: "First grade English" ( 

About the STAGE project

Participants in the project are learners in Norway and Flanders (Belgium) who have similar access to English-mediated activities outside school, but different starting ages for formal English instruction in school.


The overall aim of STAGE is to provide new and crucial insights into the input-acquisition relationship by unraveling the relative contribution of formal instruction and Extramural English (‘English outside the walls of the classroom’) to L2 English learners’ English proficiency.

Specifically, the project is the first (of size) to investigate the impact of an early start in an input-rich context by comparing early (Norwegian, age 6-7) and late (Flemish, age 13-14) starters’ English proficiency in grades 1, 6, and 10.

In doing so, STAGE will make a substantial and innovative contribution to theories of language learning and development, as well as contribute with scientific knowledge that will have societal impact.


STAGE is a 4-year international research project involving researchers from Norway, Belgium, and Sweden. The project seeks answers to questions about practical English-language problems.

STAGE can be described as interdisciplinary, as the project is at the intersection of Education and Linguistics, rooted in the field of Applied Linguistics. We will conduct cross-sectional studies with participants from grades 1, 6, and 10 in Norway and Flanders. STAGE employs a quantitative-dominant mixed-methods approach.


In STAGE, five empirical, cross-sectional studies will be set up.

  • Study 1 focuses on learners’ Extramural English.
  • Study 2 sheds light on the effect of starting age on learners’ performance on the different language proficiency measures we focus on.
  • Study 3 investigates the relationship between starting age, Extramural English, and the different language proficiency measures.
  • Study 4 offers insight into learner beliefs about the roles of Extramural English and English instruction for proficiency development.
  • Study 5 examines interactional competence in light of learners’ experiences of Extramural English and instruction.

Developing a vocabulary test and speaking test

As part of the STAGE project, we will develop and trial a new picture-based vocabulary test for young learners around the age of 6 or 7 (that is, Grade 1 in Norway and Flanders). For these very young learners, we will also develop and trial a picture-based, 1-on-1 speaking test aimed at eliciting oral English (and possibly, with some test-takers, also interaction). These two new tests (one for vocabulary, one for speaking) will employ the same pictures, representing age-appropriate words.


  • The STAGE project is funded by the Research Council of Norway. The project period starts August 1, 2021 and ends September 31, 2025. Grant awarded: NOK 11,948,000. Project number: 314229.
  • STAGE also has a sister project in Belgium funded by the Research Foundation in Flanders (FWO).


STAGE is an international project with the University of Oslo (UiO), Department of Teacher Education and School Research (ILS), as the owner and coordinator of the project. In addition to UiO, the following universities and departments take part:

Advisory Board

The four members of the STAGE Advisory Board are world-leading scholars whose expert knowledge will help sharpening the research by scientific scrutiny.

Other research project related to STAGE


We will publish selected publications here continuously.

  • Sundqvist, Pia (2022). Extramural English in language education. In Mohebbi, Hassan & Coombe, Christine (Ed.), Research questions in language education and applied linguistics: A reference guide. Springer. ISSN 978-3-030-79142-1. p. 201–205. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-79143-8_37.
  • Reinders, Hayo; Lai, Chun & Sundqvist, Pia (2022). Introduction: Language Learning and Teaching Beyond the Classroom. In Reinders, Hayo; Lai, Chun & Sundqvist, Pia (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of language learning and teaching beyond the classroom . Routledge. ISSN 9781003048169. p. 1–6. Full text in Research Archive

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  • Sundqvist, Pia (2022). 15 Years of Researching Extramural English: Lessons Learned for ELT.
  • Sundqvist, Pia (2021). Online gaming and game-changing: From learning to teaching.

View all works in Cristin

Published Feb. 25, 2021 8:34 PM - Last modified June 21, 2022 3:12 PM