|dc.description.abstract||Multilingualism and multiculturalism are increasing around the world, and as a result, classrooms are becoming more linguistically and culturally diverse. This dissertation examines how young plurilingual children communicate in one Francophone preschool in British Columbia, Canada. In this province of Canada, French is a minority language with most people speaking English. There are also many other languages present, such as Mandarin, German, Punjabi, and Tagalog. Speakers of these languages are often higher in number than French home language speakers (Statistics Canada, 2016). Therefore, the children at the Francophone preschool are in contact with multiple, diverse languages. The diversity present in this preschool classroom raises questions about how the linguistic resources available to children influence their classroom interactions. The aim of this study was to identify the linguistic resources demonstrated by the children and determine how they utilised these resources to negotiate meaning in classroom interactions – specifically, interactions during child-initiated play.
Research has shown that participation in social interactions is necessary for children to develop language and social skills. In addition, play is an important context in which young children communicate and negotiate meaning. Many studies on classroom interactions have focused on educator-child interactions. In contrast, there are limited studies on peer interactions despite research advocating their benefits in children’s development. In a multilingual classroom, children have a choice of language which often depends on the interactants. Despite educators attempting to separate languages, children usually code-switch and draw upon a range of linguistic resources to communicate. These linguistic resources include the use of multimodal language such as gestures, a recent focus of study in the field of second language acquisition. Considering the diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds of children in preschool classrooms, it is vital to understand how they incorporate multiple linguistic resources in their communications. By understanding children’s use of linguistic resources, we can further understandings of their language learning processes in the classroom.
A conceptual framework drawing on sociocultural and interactionist theories was used to explore how young plurilingual children communicate. Within these two theories, language is a social action in which an interaction is co-constructed by the participants. The two concepts of plurilingualism and multimodal language were part of this framework. From this perspective, each child in the study were considered to possess a unique linguistic repertoire consisting of verbal and nonverbal resources.
As a participant-observer, I collected data in one preschool classroom over a 3-month period. The primary data source was video recordings from two cameras – a camcorder and a GoPro camera. In addition, I collected field notes, school-related documents, and a questionnaire completed by the children’s parents/guardians. These data contributed background information on the preschool and participants. Interactions occurring during child-initiated play were analysed in order to answer the research questions. I used a computer software program, ATLAS.ti, to assist with the data analysis. The analysed interactions involved 13 children (3- and 4-year-olds), the classroom teacher, the teaching assistant, and me (as the participant-researcher).
The findings of the study showed that the children employed multiple resources in their play interactions. They used French spoken resources, English spoken resources and non-verbal actions, as well as translanguaging (French and English) and non-verbal actions combined with spoken language. The children’s choice of linguistic resources related to the interactant, the purpose of the interaction, and their own motivations to exercise agency. Through the use of various linguistic resources, the children practised their interactional and social skills, organised and advanced their own learning through translanguaging and peer teaching, and enacted agency. The children’s use of multiple linguistic resources in play interactions demonstrated their emerging plurilingual competencies.
This study has highlighted the importance of educators and researchers considering individual children’s linguistic resources in a holistic manner. By adopting a holistic approach, educators can understand how children’s use of multiple linguistic resources is beneficial to their learning. Researchers can increase understandings of children and their learning processes by considering how children employ their multiple linguistic resources. The findings of this study demonstrate that young children are resourceful, engaged, creative, and agentive in their use of linguistic resources during play interactions. These skills should be considered as plurilingual assets and educators should provide opportunities for children to practise and develop these skills in the classroom.||