Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/23076
The present study investigates language and literacy acquisition in five Russian-speaking bilingual children living in Reykjavik. Explorative in its nature, the study is designed to provide information on the subjects’ language and literacy acquisition in addition to contributing to studies of multilingual children in Iceland. The research strategy adopted was a holistic multiple-case study conducted in one national context, in order to answer the following questions: What sociolinguistic and cultural factors influence the acquisition of language and literacy among Russian-speaking 7- to 9-year-old children living in Iceland? Why and how do these factors influence and interact in the children’s acquisition of L1/La and L2/Lb? Data collection techniques were oral language observations, parents’ questionnaire, language proficiency tests and decoding/encoding exercises. An Icelandic adaptation of PPVT-4 (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - 4) developed by Hrafnhildur Ragnarsdóttir et al. (2009; Ólafsdóttir, 2011) was used to acquire information on the participants’ Icelandic vocabulary knowledge. The Russian language proficiency test for multilingual children by Natalia Gagarina et al. (2010), oral observations and decoding/encoding exercises served to collect information regarding the participants’ oral competence and grammatical knowledge of Russian. Finally, a specifically-designed questionnaire for parents was used to collect information on the children’s home literacy environment and shed light on various socio-linguistic features.
Taking into account Brian Street’s holistic concept of ideological literacy, the study attempts to examine biliteracy as both technical and socio-cultural phenomena. Predictably, the results of the PPVT-4 highlighted that the participants from a predominantly Icelandic background performed better in the test than those from chiefly Russian households. Therefore, access to the language, the number of years spent in Iceland, simultaneous or consecutive type of bilinguality, future plans for residence in the country and motivation to learn Icelandic appeared to be important factors in the language and literacy acquisition. The results brought to light a number of repeated patterns and systematic answers occurring in the children’s Russian language test and the decoding/encoding exercises. Interestingly, the repeated patterns indicate that, in many cases, the children learn colloquialisms prior to standard forms of some Russian words, due to the informal settings in which this knowledge is acquired. This demonstrates how the home language environment influences language acquisition processes in children. The systematic answers indicate that the participants are mainly confident with using inflected forms of perfective and imperfective Russian verbs, but struggle to recognize grammatical constructions with passive voice sentences; moreover, they have not yet developed the knowledge of some basic grammatical rules in the Russian language. In most cases, a connection was found between oral competence in Russian and successful acquisition of literacy in the language. Furthermore, the importance of integrative motivation, parental involvement and home literacy appeared in all aspects of the study. Finally, the study helped to identify linguistic patterns that appeared regularly in the subjects’ answers and interactions - code-switching and script-switching. Interestingly, parental attitudes towards these patterns were either sympathetic or positive.
Keywords: bilinguality, biliteracy, code-switching, home literacy, ideological literacy, integrative motivation, mother tongue, motivation, oral proficiency, PPVT
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