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Siblings: A Hidden Influence in Multilingual Families Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert.

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Presentation on theme: "Siblings: A Hidden Influence in Multilingual Families Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert."— Presentation transcript:

1 Siblings: A Hidden Influence in Multilingual Families Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert

2 Summary Academic research on sibling sets. Parent/linguists studies. Survey on multilingual families. 1. Preferred language. 2. Siblings as Teachers. 3. Re-assessing strategies. 4. Same languages, different language histories. 5. Maintaining a minority language. Conclusions

3 Academic research on siblings Research in the field of childhood bilingualism has underestimated the influence of the siblings at home. Studies have typically reported on only or first-born children. We know very little about the dynamics of a whole family, or the way siblings use language together. Transcribing and observing siblings is complicated with two or more children. Often a parent-linguist who records his/her children.

4 Parent/linguist studies Leopold (1939-49) Saunders (1988) Fantini (1985) Caldas (2006) Taeschner (1983) Cunningham-Andersson (2004) Jisa (2000) Hoffmann (1985) Cruz-Ferreira (2006) Tokuhama-Espinosa (2001)

5 Survey on multilingual families Families were contacted via online chat rooms, websites and a blog. I collected data from 105 international families (with 2 or more children) via an online survey. 22 international families were also interviewed.

6 1. Preferred Language Siblings usually communicate in a preferred language. Their choice of language (s) is independent of their parents preferences. This can be one language or a mix of: A parental /school/country language The school can have a strong effect. For practical reasons children often choose a school language.

7 2. Siblings as Teachers Siblings can teach younger ones, and show an example of how to use each language in context. They are a model of bilingualism in action. Older children can help younger ones with grammar, pronunciation or vocabulary. Children can pick up language patterns directly from siblings (slang, swearwords or accents). Some older sisters (or brothers) may talk or translate for a younger sibling.

8 3. Re-assessing strategies With the birth of a second or third child, parents might re-assess their bilingual family and adapt strategies. What worked for the first child may not apply to following children. Children can force parents to change language strategies. Some families moved from strict parental-led strategies (OPOL or Minority Language at Home) to more relaxed child-led strategies such as mixing.

9 4. Same languages, different language histories Growing up in the same family, even with the same parental or community languages does not lead to children having the same level of bilingualism or multilingualism. Some children are naturally good at languages, others are shy or introverted and can have very different ways of expressing themselves. One child can feel more attached to a particular language or refuse to use a certain language.

10 5. Maintaining a minority language Siblings can support a minority language within the family, giving it a vitality and relevance. However, an older or dominant sibling can pressurize other children/parents to not use a minority language. If one or two children stop or reduce minority language in the home there is a risk that other children will copy.

11 An important sub-group It is the siblings who give language life and vitality, not only the parents. The influence of siblings, friends and their social life can be stronger than the parents authority. Languages can grow or fade away, depending on one or more siblings attitudes. With families of 2 or more children, studies should include sibling language interactions. Studies need to follow children at least up to the start of formal schooling, ideally up to adolescence.

12 Siblings: A Hidden Influence in Multilingual Families Suzanne Barron-Hauwaert

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