Parent, educator and speech-language pathologist partnerships for supporting multilingual children in Iceland

Kathryn Crowe, University of Iceland, Iceland; Charles Sturt University, Australia (
Jóhanna Thelma Einarsdóttir, University of Iceland, Iceland (
Thora Másdóttir, University of Iceland, Iceland (

Background: A growing number of children in Iceland are multilingual, coming from homes where languages other than Icelandic are used. In 2017, 12.2% of children enrolled in pre-primary education in Iceland were exposed to a language other than Icelandic at home. Multilingual children often fail to acquire strong skills in the language of education (i.e., Icelandic) and are at risk of significant long-term negative outcomes. Children learning Icelandic through early childhood education have significant lags in Icelandic skills such as receptive vocabulary, despite having good skills in their home language. Long term, poor Icelandic skills can be related to education outcomes, for example, half of all students with two non-Icelandic parents drop out of upper secondary education. There are currently few language interventions suitable for large-scale implementation by educators to support multilingual children in the early childhood years and a desperate need for high-quality evaluations of promising interventions.

Aim: In this presentation we will review literature on the needs and outcomes of multilingual children and present the results of a recent systematic review into interventions used by educators and speech-language pathologists with multilingual children in the preschool years. Plans for an upcoming trial of an intervention designed for multilingual preschool-aged children in Iceland will also be presented.

Implications for children: Your teachers are important in making your school a good place for you to learn and practice using a new language.

Implications for families: The current and future language needs of each multilingual child should be considered alongside your needs, desires, and capabilities as a family.

Implications for practitioners: If systemic improvements in the educational outcomes of multilingual children is the goal, you need to be aware of evidence-based practices that can be applied in contextually sensitive ways in your workplace.

Key words: Families’ voices, professionals’ voices, innovations, speech and language, education, review, multilingualism, Icelandic.

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