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Separating the Languages in a Bilingual Preschool: To Do or Not to Do?

  • Danijela Prošić-Santovac
  • Danijela Radović
Chapter
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 25)

Abstract

The study focuses on a paired bilingual model used in a Serbian-English kindergarten in Serbia, where Serbian is the official language and, for the most part, the language of the immediate environment, while English has the status of a foreign language, albeit a socially prestigious one. The bilingual pedagogy of the model is based on complete language separation, i.e. ‘one person – one language’ approach, with L2/L1 ratio ranging from 1:8 to 1:10, depending on daily organization. The aim of the research was to investigate the teachers’ concerns in connection with the applied model, as well as the challenges they come across in their daily work. Also, their language teaching strategies and their correlation across languages were examined, alongside the role of the teachers and parents in encouraging child motivation and attitude toward second language acquisition. Finally, the attitudes of children themselves towards ‘one person – one language approach’ were recorded. With this aim in mind, a linguistic ethnographic approach was adopted, and the data were obtained through class observations and child observation sheets, semi-structured interviews with L1 and L2 teachers, a questionnaire for parents and a structured interview with children. The interview with children was conducted using the Berkeley Puppet Interview method in order to reduce acquiescence bias by employing the use of two puppets which take over the role of the interviewer and produce two opposite statements for each interview item, prompting the child to agree to one. Observation focused on children’s spoken interaction with the teacher, with the aim of revealing the ratio of FL/L1 use, alongside focusing on the teachers’ language teaching and motivational strategies, in order to uncover the most frequently used ones. The results show that the target bilingual model had mostly positive effects on children’s passive knowledge and attitude towards the English language, but also that more stakeholders favoured a balanced approach to the language learning process, regarding the applied ‘one person – one language’ model inappropriate. Both the children and the parents expressed a wish for introducing L1 into their L2 teacher’s repertoire, alongside the teacher herself. The practical value of such changes in the applied approach would be providing young learners with a positive model of a bilingual person. The children would benefit from exposure to comfortable and successful communication with one person in two languages, leading to fewer blockages and restrictions concerning their own use of both languages, as they would become more acceptant towards bilingualism in themselves.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Danijela Prošić-Santovac
    • 1
  • Danijela Radović
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Philosophy, Department of English StudiesUniversity of Novi SadNovi SadSerbia
  2. 2.Research DepartmentPedagogical Institute of VojvodinaNovi SadSerbia

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