Peer Group Interactions in Multilingual Educational Settings: Co-Constructing Social Order and Norms for Language Use

By Cekaite, Asta; Björk-Willén, Polly | International Journal of Bilingualism, April 2013 | Go to article overview

Peer Group Interactions in Multilingual Educational Settings: Co-Constructing Social Order and Norms for Language Use


Cekaite, Asta, Björk-Willén, Polly, International Journal of Bilingualism


Abstract

The present study explores peer group interactions in early multilingual educational settings, specifically focusing on children's language-related episodes. Highlighting the multifaceted work of these interactional practices, it demonstrates in detail how children's corrective actions, targeting, assessing and criticizing of the other's language use were utilized in building the peer group identities and relations, while simultaneously indexing local norms for conduct and language use. Designed as outright disagreements with the prior speaker, corrections highlighted the contrast between the recipient's error and the speaker's remedy and entailed (a) the disagreement with the prior speaker (e.g. linguistic polarity marker 'no'), (b) the explicit identification of the trouble source ('this is not x') and (c) the instruction as to the correct replacement ('this is x'). Similarly, word searches in the peer group were resolved so as to index the asymmetry in knowledge between the peers. In the production of corrections, the children displayed and recognized the relevance of appropriate use of the lingua franca (e.g. Swedish) as part of their situated production of local social order. Language expertise was an issue for negotiations and redefinitions in multilingual peer group's interactions and was one of the factors organizing social relations in multilingual educational settings.

Keywords

children's peer interactions, conversation analysis, corrections, multilingual educational settings, peer socialization, word searches

Introduction

Increasing numbers of bilingual and multilingual children are entering early monolingual educa- tional settings. What happens in multilingual peer groups where children from diverse linguistic backgrounds share a lingua franca that is their emerging additional/second language? What lan- guage practices evolve in multilingual peer groups where various languages are available as part of children's everyday interactions and activities? As shown in studies on peer preadolescents and adolescents, multilingual settings are complex interactional and linguistic environments, where peers constitute their own language norms, appropriate and negotiate institutional norms for lan- guage use, orient to and exploit features of multiple language varieties (Madsen, 2008; Rampton, 1995). Attention to interactions in the multilingual peer groups is also motivated because children's language learning extends beyond to teacher--student instructional exchanges. Language learning is inextricably related to the social world of the peer group, constituting part and parcel of chil- dren's ongoing negotiations of social relations (Blum-Kulka, 2005; Goodwin & Kyratzis, 2007, 2012). However, while the linguistic characteristics of peer interactions and their contributions to additional/second-language learning have been discussed to some extent (Fassler, 1998; Philp & Duchesne, 2008), we still know little about children's peer cultures and social interactional pro- cesses in multilingual early childhood contexts (but see Björk-Willén, 2007).

In the present study of peer interactions in two early multilingual educational settings in Sweden, we will examine how children in interactions with their peers deploy a range of corrective actions targeting different aspects of language, utilizing them as methods that enable them to hold one another accountable for their understandings of local norms for language use. We will show how a number of systematic practices -- corrections and word searches -- serve in the moment-to-moment shaping of peer group relations and the local social order.

The present study is informed by interpretive approaches to peer interaction and geared to understand the processes of cultural production and reproduction in childhood from an emic point of view (Blum-Kulka, 2005; Corsaro, 1997; Goodwin & Kyratzis, 2012). It also adopts dynamic interactionally based perspectives on speaker identities in talk-in-interaction (Antaki & Widdicombe, 1998; Benwell & Stokoe, 2006; Bucholtz & Hall, 2005; Kasper, 2004), which treat participants' identities as products of their own actions, as invoked, displayed and oriented to in and through talk. …

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