What do children think of their own bilingualism? Exploring bilingual children’s attitudes and perceptions

Tracey Peace-Hughes*, Philomena de Lima, Bronwen Cohen, Lynn Jamieson, E. Kay M. Tisdall, Antonella Sorace

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Aims and objectives: This paper explores children’s experiences and perceptions of their own bilingualism in two contexts in Scotland, UK: a primary school with a high proportion of children using a language other than English at home; and a primary school where the language of instruction is an indigenous, minority language, Gaelic.

Methodology: The paper draws upon data gathered from multiple qualitative methods, including interviews, group activities and discussion, with both children and their parents. The data in this paper draw upon a broader interdisciplinary project exploring children’s experiences of bilingualism. Ethics were duly considered.

Data and analysis: Data were gathered from 27 children and 11 parents. Data were coded and analysed using thematic analysis. Comparison between contexts was of particular interest for this article.

Findings: This paper highlights the importance of research with children in order to gain an insight into their experiences and perceptions of their own bilingualism. In particular, our findings illustrate how children’s language learning is encouraged and supported by children’s connections with others and the fundamental role of family (particularly parents/carers) and diverse community-based support systems (which encompass a wide range of individuals and community groups) in order to develop active bilingualism.

Originality: This paper addresses a research gap in a largely quantitative field, by adopting a qualitative approach to explore children’s experiences and perceptions of their own bilingualism. A qualitative approach facilitates attention to complexity and the participants’ own meanings and understandings.

Significance: The paper highlights the value of research with children in order to explore their views and perspectives. In particular, qualitative research methodologies, where children’s experiences are central to understanding the research phenomenon, and to facilitating the exploration of the range of complex issues that interact with a child’s bilingualism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Early online date17 Mar 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Mar 2021

Keywords

  • bilingualism
  • childhood bilingualism
  • children’s experiences
  • minority languages
  • qualitative methods

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