Academic journal article Babel

Writing Strategies of Children in a Macedonian-English Bilingual Program in Victoria

Academic journal article Babel

Writing Strategies of Children in a Macedonian-English Bilingual Program in Victoria

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Research holds that, for bilingual children, a strong establishment in one language not only develops skills in that language, but also facilitates the development of a second language. The participants for this research were six nine-year-old children who were being educated in their first language, Macedonian, and also in English.

This research investigated the strategies that these Macedonian-English bilingual children use for writing in Macedonian script and whether these strategies have a positive or negative transfer to English literacy. Think-aloud protocols were used to look into the writing process and to categorise the types of writing strategies that the children used in Macedonian and English. The official results from the literacy assessment conducted at the school were also examined.

Results of the study indicated that there is an interdependent ability between the first language and the second language in writing and that there is a positive transfer of skills, strategies and knowledge from Macedonian to English. Therefore the conclusion is that, for this study at least, literacy development of the stronger language (Macedonian) facilitates literacy development in the second language (English) and that access to two languages from an early age and the possibility of learning those languages can facilitate literacy development.

Key Words

bilingual education, writing strategies, Macedonian

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INTRODUCTION

The fact that 23% of the population in Australia speaks a language other than English at home, an increase of 2% over the previous census, indicates that the significance of maintaining the mother tongue of the ethnic groups in Australian society is high. (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Clyne 2005). Although Australia is linguistically diverse, multilingualism has not always been effectively promoted in the educational system (Clark, 2006; Clyne 2005). The focus on literacy skills has been directed towards developing knowledge and skills predominantly in the English language (Lo Bianco, 2003). Bilingualism and language maintenance are not always seen as contributing factors in acquiring literacy in the second language, which, in this case, is English. (de Courcy, 2006, 2007; Molyneux, 2009; Cross, 2012)

Baker (2006) maintains that to achieve bilingualism, biliteracy and biculturalism, strong forms of bilingual education, such as immersion or two-way bilingual programs should be implemented. A bilingual program is identified as a specific type of language program where teaching and learning of the other areas of the curriculum such as social studies or mathematics is implemented via the medium of a second language. At present there are several bilingual schools in Victoria and even though the aim of these programs is to provide learners with the second language and culture, they vary in the way they are structured, according to the time allocated for the language and the particular subjects studied (Truckenbrodt & de Courcy, 2002). Some, such as Camberwell Primary School, involve all children enrolled at the school in a French bilingual program, where they study their Mathematics and part of the literacy block in French (de Courcy & Burston, 2000; de Courcy, Burston & Warren, 1999). Others, such as Abbotsford and Richmond West Primary Schools, involve children from heritage languages (e.g. Chinese) in the maintenance of these languages through the study of some subject areas through that language (Elder & Liem, 2000a, 2000b).

This research focuses on a Macedonian heritage bilingual program where one of the authors (Smilevsaka) teaches in her mother tongue, Macedonian. The children in the program are first language speakers of Macedonian, who are acquiring literacy in Macedonian and in English. This paper gives us the important perspective of a teacher working in a bilingual program, so as to inform discussion of bilingual programs and transfer of literacy skills. …

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