ERG SES E 07, Context and Content in Education
In an age of increasing globalisation and migration, European societies continue to diversify. This results in many languages being spoken in European societies and consequently in a greater significance for individuals of being able to communicate in more than one language. For many years the European Union has pursued the objective of European citizens becoming competent in two languages in addition to their mother tongue. Additionally, at the national level, education policies proclaim multilingualism to be an educational goal (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)/German Ministry of Education and Research 2013). Many migrants in European societies have a strong potential of becoming multilingual. They acquire the heritage language mainly in the family context and, often simultaneously, acquire and develop the majority language in contexts outside of the family, such as kindergarten, playgroups, peer networks and school amongst others.
However, patterns of multilingual development proceed very differently which leads to vastly different levels of multilingual competence. In a study with over 5,000 second-generation students conducted in the southern US states, Portes und Hao (1998) found that, independent of the students´ ethnic backgrounds, knowledge of and preference for the majority language (in their case: English) was nearly universal, but that only a minority remained fluent in their parents’ native language and were fully bilingual. Portes and Hao (ibid.) identified the main language problem associated with contemporary immigration not be the threat that it poses to the dominance of and the preference for the majority language (in their case: English), but the rapid disappearance of fluent bilingualism among the second generation, which means a loss of the family language.
At the same time, the role and retention of family languages remains controversial. For instance, the PISA study indicated that family languages are potential risk factors for students’ educational attainment (Stanat et al. 2010). A negative influence also remains when other factors are controlled for, although this correlation has become weaker in subsequent PISA studies (ibid.). The main message is that speaking a minority language at home leads to reduced competence in the academic majority language. Others even consider an investment in the family language a useless effort since family languages are not relevant to either formal education or the job market (Esser 2006).
Esser classifies bilingual competence according to four types, distinguishing them by competence in the first (L1) and second language (L2): competent bilingualism (high competence in L1, high competence in L2); monolingual assimilation (low competence in L1, high competence in L2); monolingual segmentation (high competence in L1, low competence in L2); and marginal bilingualism (low competence in L1, low competence in L2). He remarks that competent bilingualism remains an exception, since the conditions that support L2 development counteract L1 development and vice versa (ibid.).
In the context of the educational goal of ‘multilingualism’ this paper aims to identify factors that contribute to competent bilingualism in second-generation children in Germany at the end of elementary school. It further aims to identify factors that lead to the development of the majority language but to the disappearance of the family language (monolingual assimilation) among children from multilingual families. Whereas many studies investigate the influence of selected factors on language development in quantitative models (Becker 2015, Biedinger et al. 2015, Duarte et al. 2014, De Houwer 2007, Scheele et al. 2010), this analysis will be conducted by means of a qualitative approach. Moreover, this paper will look at the factors that influence the simultaneous development of both languages, and not at the development of only the majority or the family language, as has been the focus of many previous studies on language development.
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung - BMBF (2013): Bekanntmachung von Richtlinien zur Förderung von Forschung im Bereich „Sprachliche Bildung und Mehrsprachigkeit“ https://www.bmbf.de/foerderungen/bekanntmachung-774.html Becker, Birgit; Boldin, Elena & Klein, Oliver (2015): Formal and informal education of Turkish origin children in Germany. In: Early Child Development and Care 186:1, 173-189 Biediner, Nicole; Becker, Birgit & Klein, Oliver (2015) Turkish-language ability of children of immigrants in Germany: which context of exposure influence preschool children's acquisition of their heritage language? In: Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38:9, 1520-1538 De Houwer, Annick (2007): Parental language input patterns and children's bilingual use. In: Applied Psycholinguistics (28), S. 411–424. Duarte, Joana; Gogolin, Ingrid; Klinger, Thorsten; Schnoor, Birger (2014): Mehrsprachige Kompetenzen in Abhängigkeit von familialen Sprachpraxen. In: LILI (44(174)), S. 66–85. Esser, Hartmut (2006): Migration, Sprache und Integration. AKI-Forschungsbilanz 4. Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung (WZB) Portes, Alejandro; Hao, Lingxin (1998): E Pluribus Unum: Bilingualism and Loss of Language in the Second Generation. In: Socialogy of Education (Vol. 71, No. 4), S. 269–294. Scheele, Anna F.; Leseman, Paul P.M.; Mayo, Aziza Y. (2010): The home language environment of monolingual and bilingual chidren and their language proficiency. In: Applied Psycholinguistics (31), S. 117–140. Stanat, Petra; Rauch, Dominique; Segeritz, Michael: Schülerinnen und Schüler mit Migrationshintergrund.
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