Multilingual Learning

How is additional language learning by adults and children  influenced by a multicultural background or by speaking a non-standard language variety? Unlike the more intensively studied monolingual second language learners of European languages such as English, many learners in our region live in multilingual families and societies and become bi- or multilingual speakers of typologically diverse languages. This reality has implications for community attitudes, classroom learning, and education policy in our region.

Research on second language acquisition has almost exclusively been based on the idea of the monolingual speaker learning a second language in a classroom. Yet in many cases learners come from multicultural and multilingual backgrounds and have vastly varied experiences.

Building on our understanding of bi- and multilingualism we will investigate second language learning in multilingual versus monolingual learners from young children to adults, in urban or rural settings, at school and in the community. We will compare learner progress in contexts including multilingual trading partners (Singapore – NG, Hong Kong – YIP), immigrant populations in Australian cities, and remote Indigenous learners, providing Australia with the evidence base for meeting the challenges of the  'Asian century‘.

Exploring the role of non-standard English or creole multicultural backgrounds is another focus. For example, parents of Ku Waru children in PNG speak Tok Pisin to their children in an attempt to assist their transition to schooling in Standard English. Similarly, many Indigenous Australian children enter school speaking a creole or variety of Aboriginal English. Research to date suggests that these children will encounter teachers who often have little language or cultural training, and who see non-standard varieties as deficient versions of the standard variety rather than as languages in their own right.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University

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