Developing bilingual learning strategies in mainstream and community contexts
Abstract or Description
This study set out to enhance theoretical understanding of bilingual learning and devise ways in which it can be built into classroom practice, through action research with children, mainstream teachers and bilingual assistants participating in the Primary National Strategy Pilot for EAL (English as an Additional Language) in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Teachers from the children’s Bengali after-school classes were involved via partnership with Tower Hamlets Community Languages Service, since community classes are sites where children already use both mother tongue and English for language and literacy learning (Robertson, 2002; Martin et al, 2004).
Previous studies on bilingual learning have mostly been conducted with first generation children and/or in countries where there is mainstream bilingual education. A unique aspect of this study is that the children involved were second or third generation British Bangladeshi, mostly more fluent in English than in their mother tongue, who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to use their full language repertoire within the mainstream curriculum. Our research examined whether and how the cognitive and cultural benefits of bilingual learning found in other contexts might apply in this particular setting.