Promoting and Supporting Language Development in Multilingual and Multicultural Early Childhood Settings

Over the past years pre-schools have become inscreasingly multilingual and multicultural in many parts of the world, including Europe. Early Years Practitioners (EYPs) are aware of this fact and deal with different nationalities during their everyday work.

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Thus, they want to learn how to help children with a migration background to develop additional languages and simultaneously hold on to the first language (L1) and their cultural background.

The EYPs are mostly not bilingual themselves. In order to face this challenge, EYPs want to learn about different strategies for activities and forms of interaction in preschool settings to support and promote the development of the L1 as well as additional languages in the young learners. This provides the same chances for each child for its future life.

This course module is based on the work that was developed in the  “Early Language” component of the TODDLER project, which focused on language learning and the development of multilingualism and multiculturalism among children under three years of age. Data have been collected in early childhood settings in the eight European countries that participated in the project.

The main research goal of this work package was to identify families’ and practitioners’ attitudes towards different languages and cultures,  effective underlying pedagogical approaches for dealing with diversity (culture and language specific), as well as examples of best practices that enhance language learning and multicultural awareness in pre-school settings. Two data collection instruments have been chosen to investigate these aspects: 1) questionnaires and 2) observation checklists. The research findings were then used for the design of this course module.

One of key aims of this course is to support the development of the “reflective practitioner”. Therefore, participants are going to critically examine different materials and research findings, which will enable them to reflect on the learning conditions for disadvantaged children in early childhood settings, with a specific focus on early language acquisition.

These materials will include: findings of second and third language acquisition research on language use in early childhood settings, case studies developed in eight European countries featuring examples of “best practice”, tools for examining the amount and quality of language support in pre-school settings as well as references and links to web-resources for further information.