261 – Intentional bilingualism in exogenous action: Learning from a child

Presentation - ECV2022-261

Intentional bilingualism in exogenous action: Learning from a child

Elena Babatsouli, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA (elena.babatsouli@louisiana.edu)

Background: Despite the rise of linguistic entrepreneurship as a family policy internationally (De Costa et al., 2020), there is limited information on the socio- and psycho-linguistic profiles of bilinguals raised intentionally in a non-native, non-societal language (Babatsouli, 2021). Insights of the impact of such bilingualism on child emotional state, sociocultural identity and ultimately on their linguistic and educational success are wanting, especially when tracing an individual child’s path longitudinally. 

Aim: To ascertain the dynamics characterising a child’s psychological state, cultural identity, and sociolinguistic status in the context of intentional, exogenous bilingualism and to draw generalisable inferences for children at large regarding wellbeing, language and literacy skills, and educational success from early childhood to pre-adulthood.  

Method: The micro and macro sociolinguistic background of a girl’s naturalistic acquisition of English as a lingua franca by exposure to maternal L2 input from age 1;0, alongside native Greek in the ambient society, Greece, is investigated longitudinally. Data in digital audio recordings in a CLAN (MacWhinney, 2000) database of 511 CHAT files inform the child’s bilingual naturalistic speech progress and sociolinguistic behavior between ages 2;7-4;0. Further, maternal reports are utilized on the child’s sociocultural milieu focusing on home, societal, and educational scaffolding until adolescence.

Results: The study highlights the behavioural, emotional, social, cultural, and linguistic challenges that transpire in the given bilingual acquisition context concluding that these are natural and anticipated consequences evolving during the acquisition of linguistic and cultural diversity, which not only lead to bilingual competence in childhood but also facilitate subsequent multilingual aptitude and academic achievement. 

Conclusions: Children worldwide are intentionally exposed within their homes to additional languages in exogenous and non-native settings. Information regarding the incumbrances encountered by the participant in this study is insightful for determining a) standards of beneficial family language policies in bilingualism, b) pitfalls to be avoided, and c) parameters that characterise the psycho- and sociolinguistic profiles of such bilingual children. These can be used in clinical and school settings to holistically evaluate and, ultimately, help enhance bilingual children’s health and well-being in terms of social behaviour, linguistic confidence, literacy, and general educational success.

Implications for children and families: You can reap the benefits of cultural and linguistic diversity by thinking outside the box of conventional extended-family and societal norms as a vehicle for educational, social, and economic mobility.

Implications for practitioners: You should determine the child’s and parents’ sociolinguistic context holistically to account for the impact of emotional state, cultural identity, parenting agency, family policy, and ambient environment practices on multilingual competence and academic achievement.

Key words: children’s voices, exogenous bilingualism, intentional bilingualism, family policy, home immersion, parenting agency, society and culture, early literacy, education

This presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

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