We study multilingual families / L'étude des familles multilingues
Thanks to funding from Research Impact Canada and the University of Alberta’s Kule Institute for Advanced Studies, we developed multilingual information about children’s pronunciation of French in kindergarten.
The information is based on our research published in Meziane & MacLeod (2017) that came from a study of multilingual children attending kindergarten in French-speaking schools. Carolina Salinas Marchant, Sabah Meziane and Andrea MacLeod developed these resources.
This work grew from our community-based program to support the home and school languages of children who are refugees. These 3 case studies provide an important perspective on the oral language abilities of three young children who were born in Syria and moved to Canada with their families as refugees. We spoke to parents about their children’s first language development, gathered perspectives from their teachers about their learning of French, the language of schooling, and observed their language abilities in action in both Arabic and French. We found that the home language was vulnerable to delays and weaknesses and that learning the language of school was a drawn-out process. We also found that parents were highly invested in their children’s success but communication with the school was not always easy. To foster resilience, we need to find ways to build bridges with parents to support children’s language in both the language of home and school.
A vision of excellence through equity, diversity, and inclusion
In recent years, I have been making more explicit links between my research, social justice, and action based research. With a background in linguistics and anthropology, I moved to the field of communication sciences and disorders in my master’s, PhD, and then as a professor. My work has been motivated by both the search for a better understanding of how language is learned by bilingual children, and the importance of supporting vulnerable members of our communities. Specifically, my goal has been to better understand bilingual development and speech development to support children and their families. As a junior academic with an expanding family, I found it challenging to keep my head above water. Now that I am a stronger swimmer, I am working on articulating the vision I hold for the lab: to create a framework that values excellence through equality, diversity and inclusion. I have found the work of Dr. Liboiron and the CLEAR Lab inspiring in thinking through these perspectives.
I am a novice and appreciate your kindness and patience as I work through the awkward first drafts. Here goes…
First, as you might have guessed, we take a Multilingual perspective to our work from start to finish. A key component of valuing the diverse perspectives within the lab and in our communities is using the language of the communities. As a lab, we are multilingual. When we don’t speak the language(s) needed for our research, we look to community members, often bright youth, to contribute their knowledge of the language and their community, and we aim to provide them a rich research experience.
From a Feminist perspective, the MFL builds a collaborative and non-exploitive relationships between students, between students and mentors, between researchers and community collaborators and participants. We will be actively engaged in building a cooperative and collaborative approach to managing processes from data collection to publication. As the Director of MFL, my goals it to develop a Lab Book that outlines our processes and protocols.
From a Social Justice perspective, the MFL conducts research that is meaningful to members of our communities and that has the potential to bring about change. We know that knowledge is not neutral and that it reflects power and social relationships. We need to decenter our field’s focus on white, middle-class, monolingual-English through systematic inquiry. To do this, our research actively collaborates with community members – often from the very beginning of projects. We also include measures to mobilize the knowledge we’ve created in the lab through workshops, meetings, and infographics. We aim to use research methods that support these goals such as Integrated Knowledge Mobilization, and Community Participatory Action Research.
Lastly, I aim to build a kind lab of generous scholars.
Play is important for children’s development – it helps them make sense of their world and promotes resiliency. During the pandemic, it’s important to keep children engaged in play by making time for play, creating a space, and finding ways to maintain friendships. Kids can bring the pandemic into play: curb-side delivery (instead of playing restaurant), superhero-scientists out to beat the virus. We can also use technology to bring friends together.
These tips grew out of the survey we launched early in May 2020 to understand how COVID-19 was impacting children’s communication. We shared the general findings here. We also developed tips for keeping children talking and helping them expressing emotions. Parents expressed that more information about helping their kids communicate would be helpful. During our July lab meetings, we brainstormed what should go into the tip sheet. Farah and Claire wrote the text and prepared the “mise en page” and we are ready to share!
Helping children communicate their emotions is a particular challenge for parents during COVID-19, especially when we are lock down. We pulled together resources online and found that we can help children practice naming, responding, and expressing their feelings. That we can help our kids by staying calm and showing empathy. Experts also point to the importance of regular schedules and routines – even when everything else is upside down.
These tips grew out of the survey we launched early in May 2020 to understand how COVID-19 was impacting children’s communication. We shared the general findings here. We also developed tips for keeping children talking. Parents expressed that more information about helping their kids communicate would be helpful. During our July lab meetings, we brainstormed what should go into the tip sheet. Carolina and Maryam wrote the text and prepared the “mise en page” and we are ready to share!