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Talking about Bilingualism in Parma…

So, November is well upon us, and I can see that my “Year of Talking about Bilingualism” is drawing to a close. One of the last big events for me this year is the closing conference of the “Poliglotti4.eu” project. This EU project has focused on the state of multilingualism in Europe, from different aspects. My personal involvement has been in the “Early Language Learning” project, initially at the Expert Seminar on Early Language Learning in February. At this final conference, taking place in Parma, Italy, I have been invited to participate in a session on Early Language Learning, collaborating with Annick de Houwer (so honoured to be meeting her and presenting with her!) and moderated by Cor van der Meer, from the Mercator Centre for Multilingualism and Language Learning.
So, what will I be talking about? Specifically, I’ll be addressing the results of a large-scale survey that found the following:

Top 3 challenges faced by bilingual families in Europe:
1) A positive language attitude regarding both languages
2) Finding adequate education for children
3) Enough information/materials to provide a language-rich environment for children

For schools:
Three most important issues to be improved with respect to Early Language Learning:

1) More opportunities for teachers to attend in-service training courses
2) More knowledge about the appropriate teaching methodology
3) Higher linguistic competence of teachers as well as better availability of teaching materials

Over the last three years, in cooperation with the British School of Amsterdam, I have developed a longitudinal and latitudinal training program that addresses the needs of schools for training, and also addresses the needs of parents for support in terms of theory and practice, for sustaining Mother tongue development while promoting second language learning in school. I believe that cooperative programs such as these (not only mine, there are others out there, I think) have the potential to transform the experience of children who are being raised as bilinguals outside their communities of practice. Having proper training in schools, and adequate and appropriate support for parents will go a long way to making children more successful in language learning in schools, and more successful at sustaining their mother tongue as well. Ultimately, programs such as these have the potential to address all of the main issues raised by parents and educators, regarding the European multilingual perspective.

And now I’m off to Parma, I’ll update tomorrow!

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