31 SES 12 B, Literacy and Writing In and Outside School
Multilingualism is an indisputable, every-day reality in Germany. According to research conducted in Hamburg, near 35 % of children are reported to speak a language other than German at home (Fürstenau and Yağmur, 2003: 47). Alongside other languages, Russian and Turkish are the most spoken languages among migrants in Germany. The increase in European linguistic diversity has influenced the way this diversity is shaped in European policy. The European Commission is committed “to safeguarding this linguistic diversity and promoting knowledge of languages” (Special Eurobarometer 286, 2012: 2). To follow these aims, Europe established a revised version of “New Framework Strategy for Multilingualism”. This framework sets basic standards to the EU’s language policy encouraging all citizens to be multilingual and to draw on the language resources they possess for the purpose of successful educational attainment.
Despite the multilingual perspective provided by the framework and the recognition of European multilingualism at political level, most of the research on students’ literacy skills has a deficit-oriented perspective toward multilingual pupils and assesses multilingualism mostly as background information. The research conducted so far focused on students’ competence in the majority language. This prevailing research on the majority language was initiated to a large extent due to the results reported by large scale assessment studies, such as PIRLS and PISA. These studies have revealed that migrant students in Germany perform significantly lower than their monolingual German counterparts. Moreover the discrepancy between the results of migrants and non-migrants is much larger in Germany than in other immigration countries (Klieme et al., 2010). Most of the conducted studies assessed only receptive language skills (reading or listening comprehension) in a majority language as an overall indicator for students’ language proficiency. Moreover, students’ heritage language skills were not considered thus far. As consequence, multilinguals are often associated with having limited language skills. The research on students’ multilingual abilities per se has been conducted thus far mostly by qualitative studies. Most of them, however, assessed the bilingual competence from a monolingual perspective by compering students’ performance with the performance of monolingual controls. Cenoz and Gorter (2011) proposed a “Focus on Multilingualism” approach to conducting a research on the whole linguistic repertoire of multilingual speakers. International research also pleads for the development of heritage language skills as they may represent an additional resource, and a basis for the acquisition of the majority and the foreign languages (Bialystok, 2002; Bialystok and Poarch, 2014; Cummins, 2000, 2013; Leseman et al., 2009; Verhoeven, 1994). A crucial condition for children to successfully utilize these resources is the ability to read and write in a heritage language. Thus, the research covering student’s multilingual literacy is needed.
Current paper aims to fill in the methodological gap mentioned above and to investigate students’ multilingual writing ability in three languages: in a majority language – German, in the heritage languages Turkish or Russian, and in English as a foreign language learned at school. This study focuses specifically on the role of heritage and majority language writing skills in students’ development of English writing skills. Conducting the analysis on students’ writing in three languages depicts students’ multilingual writing resources and clarifies the role of languages from students’ repertoire in fostering the acquisition of writing skills in English. This study implements a differential approach to students’ writing skills and takes into account different levels of students’ language proficiency in heritage and majority language writing.
This paper draws on the first results from the German panel study, which investigates the development of students’ literacy skills, measured as students’ writing and reading competence in their heritage languages (Russian or Turkish), in German, and in foreign language (English) from a longitudinal perspective. This study is being conducted in Hamburg, Germany and involves two cohorts with 1800 students from the 7th and the 9th grade. This study tracks students’ language performance within three years, tested at four measurement points. The testing is conducted with two largest migrant groups, the heritage speakers of Russian and Turkish, as well as monolingual German students. The analysis to be presented draws on the data from the first measurement point. These data include students’ writing in heritage and majority language, and in English as well as the background data. To test students’ writing, three picture prompts were applied. All tasks were developed according to the the same principles to guarantee the identical assessment applied for different languagesand a high degree of comparativeness of the results among the languages. Each of the prompts represents nine pictures, which were described by students. To investigate the role of students’ heritage and majority language writing skills in their writing in English, the analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted. This procedure allows to determine, whether the results on English writing skills are significantly different among the established groups and to distinguish the differential role of language skills coming from each of the groups. Moreover, the results of ANOVA are controlled for the type of school1 students attend. Additionally, the Tamhane test was applied to identify the differences between the four groups.
The results of this paper indicate that the role of heritage and majority language skills in English writing differs between the German-Russian and German-Turkish bilinguals. The provided findings show that German-Russian bilinguals rely on their writing skills in German to develop writing skills in English due to the generally low levels of Russian writing skills within this group. To master writing skills in Russian, students have to learn the Cyrillic script, which might represent a barrier on their way to becoming biliterate. Hence, the extent of Russian-language writing skills might be insufficient for the transferring of these skills to take place. Previous research has already reported that the transfer may be restrained at the low levels of students’ skills (Danzak, 2011).On contrary, writing skills of Turkish-German bilinguals are developed to that extent which allows them to apply these skills as resources for writing in English. This transferring of skills takes place especially at the lower educational tracks, where German writing skills are not well-trained. In such schools, heritage language is, therefore, the better source of transfer possibilities for acquiring English language skills.
Bialystok, Ellen (2002): Acquisition of Literacy in Bilingual Children: A Framework for Research. Language Learning 52(1), 159-199. Bialystok, Ellen & Poarch, Gregory (2014): Language experience changes language and cognitive ability. Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft ZfE 17(3), 433-446. Cenoz, J. & Gorter, D. (2011): Focus on multilingualism: A study of trilingual writing. Modern Language Journal 95, 356-369. Danzak, R. L. (2011): The Integration of Lexical, Syntactic, and Discourse Features in Bilingual Adolescents' Writing: An Exploratory Approach. Lang Speech Hear Serv Sch, 42(4), 491-505. Leseman, P. P. M.; Scheele, A.F.; Messer, M. H. & Mayo, A.Y. (2009): Bilingual development in early childhood and the languages used at home: Competition for scarce resources? In Gogolin, Ingrid & Neumann, Ursula (eds): Streitfall Zweisprachigkeit- The Bilingualism Controversy. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 289-316. Mullis, I., Martin, M., Foy, P., & Drucker, K.T. (2012): PIRLS 2011 international results in reading. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College.
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