July 11, 2015

Becoming bilingual: Children’s insights about making friends in bilingual settings

The following article was accepted for publication today.
McLeod, S. & Verdon, S. & Theobald, M. (2015, in press July). Becoming bilingual: Children’s insights about making friends in bilingual settings. International Journal of Early Childhood 
Here is the abstract

The majority of the world speaks more than one language yet the impact of learning a second language has rarely been studied from a child’s perspective. This paper describes monolingual children’s insights into becoming bilingual at four time points: two months before moving to another country (while living in Australia), as well as one, six, and twelve months after moving to Germany. The participants were two monolingual English-speaking siblings (a male aged 7- to 8-years and a female aged 9- to 10-years) who subsequently learned to speak German. At each of the four time points, interviews were undertaken with each child using child-friendly drawing and questionnaire techniques. Three themes were identified: (1) the children’s awareness of language competence, (2) inclusion factors, and (3) exclusion factors that influenced friendship formation. The impact of language ability on making friends was a dominant theme that arose across the four time points and was triangulated across data collection methods. The children made friends with others who had similar language competence in German, even though they were younger, and did not share the same first language. Age-matched peers who were more competent in German were less likely to be described as friends. Across all three themes, the playground was highlighted by both children as the key site where becoming bilingual most strongly impacted initiation and negotiation of friendships. Becoming bilingual impacted the children’s friendship formation and socialization opportunities with more competent language users.
"Samantha's" drawing at time 2 (she had just arrived in Germany) when
her new friend could not understand her English
"Samantha's" drawing at time 4 when
she and her friends had learned to speak German