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Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication

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Volume 36, Issue 4


Children’s beliefs about bilingualism and language use as expressed in child-adult conversations

Elin Almér
  • Corresponding author
  • Department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä, PL 35, 40014 Jyväskylän yliopisto, Finland
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Published Online: 2017-04-26 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2016-0022


The aim of this article is to describe young children’s beliefs about language and bilingualism as they are expressed in verbal utterances. The data is from Swedish-medium preschool units in three different sites in Finland. It was generated through ethnographic observations and recordings of the author’s interactions with the children. The meaning constructions in the interactions were analyzed mainly by looking closely at the participants’ turn taking and conversational roles. The results show that children’s beliefs of bilingualism are that you should use one language when speaking to one person; that languages are learnt through using them; and that the advantage of knowing more than one language is being able to talk to (other) people. The results also show that this knowledge of languages is no different from other knowledge within their world. This will probably change over time as the children enter school, and it is something in which our presence as language researchers will have played a part.

Keywords: bilingualism; conversations; agency; children; beliefs


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-04-26

Published in Print: 2017-07-26

Academy of Finland, Research Council for Culture and Society (Grant number 266850).

Citation Information: Multilingua, Volume 36, Issue 4, Pages 401–424, ISSN (Online) 1613-3684, ISSN (Print) 0167-8507, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/multi-2016-0022.

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