pre-school children with a teacher building blocks

Everyday interaction in pre-school is important for multilingual children's language development

For multilingual children's language development, everyday practical interactions are important, according to pre-school teachers. The interactions also increase the teachers' own knowledge and influence their professional identity, a new research study from Linnaeus University shows.

Most multilingual children in Swedish pre-schools learn the Swedish language without major problems, but not all. One problem, however, is that multilingual children's language development is often assessed from a single-language perspective. There is a tendency to see it as a "weakness" instead of seeing it from a broader perspective. Not least, this applies to children and pupils with war experiences.

In a new study by associate professor Goran Basic at Linnaeus University and two colleagues from school contexts, they have investigated how pre-school teachers work practically with multilingual children's language development, and how this affects the teachers' own identity.

"The pre-school teachers emphasised the significance of everyday practical interactions for language development. They saw themselves as competent parties who build upon their own knowledge via interaction with multilingual children, which also affected their professional identity."

"The interactive dimension is important for the successful involvement and integration of multilingual children in the pre-school context, but also for a socio-pedagogical recognition of the identity of pre-school teachers who engage in practical work among these children", says Goran Basic.

The study's analytical discoveries are presented under three headings: interaction and language development during play, mealtime and story time.

"Language development is often made into a planned activity done at certain times of the day, but it is important not to forget to work on this throughout the remainder of the day. Play, meals and story times are all situations that can lead to genuine conversations. And for language to be given the opportunity to develop, the way in which adults involve thamselves in the conversation by asking questions is important."

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