On this page you find research projects, publications and resources that pertain to the scientific dimension of the HaBilNet mission.
Here you find information about research projects that HaBilNet actively supports or that are directly relevant to its goals.
A survey on adolescents' emotions related to heritage and majority languages
The ALDeQ-NL is now multilingual!
The parent questionnaire ALDeQ-NL (based on the original ALDeQ in English developed by Johanne Paradis) helps to identify multilingual children with a language development disorder. With the support of HaBilNet, a team of speech therapists at Thomas More college has developed translations of the ALDeQ-NL into 10 different languages, with a read aloud function. This makes it easier for parents who are not proficient in Dutch to complete the questionnaire.
Download the Dutch project report here.
Ekaterina Tiulkova recipient of the first HaBilNet doctoral grant
As part of the partnership with the Laboratory of Neuro- and Psycholinguistics at the University of Toulouse – Jean Jaurès in France, HaBilNet is pleased to support Ekaterina Tiulkova's doctoral research project on the impact of input in the development of harmonious bilingualism in French-Russian children (in the original French: "L'impact de l'input dans le développement harmonieux du bilinguisme précoce franco-russe"). You can read the English version of the abstract here.
HaBilNet wishes Ms. Tiulkova all the best for this exciting project, which will greatly contribute to our knowledge of factors supporting the early development of harmonious bilingualism.
ToddleTalk is Dr. De Houwer's longitudinal project on well-being in early English-German bilingualism. Download its description here.
ToddleTalk has been funded by HaBilNet and by the University of Erfurt, Germany.
Maluchy na językach
Maluchy na językach is Dr. De Houwer's longitudinal project on well-being in early Polish-German bilingualism. Download its description here.
Maluchy na językach has been funded by HaBilNet and by the University of Erfurt, Germany.
Here you find selected titles and abstracts of academic publications (in chronological order) that relate to harmonious bilingualism and harmonious bilingual development. In some cases, if you click on the title, you'll be linked to the publication source.
Download all the titles with their summaries here.
This chapter aims to explore some possible environmental factors that help determine whether very young children will grow up to speak two languages from a very tender age rather than just one. In this exploration, I will be focussing particularly on the possible role of parental beliefs and attitudes. As I will try to explain, such beliefs and attitudes can be seen to lie at the basis of parents' language behavior towards their children, which in turn is a powerful contributive factor in children's patterns of language use.
This French article was, as far as we know, the first one to specifically draw attention to harmonious bilingual development and to launch the term. The article does not have an abstract, but here is a short description in English:
In the last 20 years there has been a lot of research on young bilingual children's language development. This has been a good thing, if only to dispel the myth that young bilingual children are confused and cannot get their languages straight. This myth persists in large portions of society but at least now there is scientific evidence that shows it to be what it is, viz., a myth. A review of the relevant literature shows, however, that much of the work on child bilingualism has the same fairly limited scope, i.e., it mainly focuses on psycholinguistic aspects of bilingual language acquisition. Sociolinguistic approaches are rare, and even more rare are approaches that combine the two perspectives.
On the whole, studies have focused on children who have been successful in their bilingual acquisition. Yet it is abundantly clear that there are many children who are not so successful. They may understand two languages, but speak only one, much to their own chagrin or that of their family members, or they may speak two languages in ways that are unsatisfactory to their environment. In addition, frictions may arise in bilingual families that are attributed to the fact of bilingualism. In all these cases, there is no harmonious bilingual development, and children's and families' lives are adversely affected.
There is little systematic research at the moment that can address the question what factors lead to a harmonious bilingual development. There is some anecdotal evidence from bilingual families and research from monolingual acquisition, however, that gives an idea of what these factors may be. They basically relate to various aspects of language input and language attitudes. It is high time that research efforts are directed at systematically investigating these factors. This most likely means that a fundamentally new paradigm has to be developed in the field of child bilingualism, and that alternative methodologies have to be sought. For instance, group studies are needed rather than mainly case studies. Researchers will also need to gather information on the macro- and micro-contexts within which children grow up bilingually. On the whole, this aspect has been much neglected in the more psycholinguistically oriented literature. However, it is only by having a very wide range of information on different aspects pertaining to a bilingual child's life that we will be able to discover what makes the difference between harmonious and unsuccessful bilingual development. We owe it to the many bilingual families in the world to try and solve this issue.
This article analyzes the role that individual differences in children's cognitive, Spanish competence, and socio-emotional and behavioral skills play in predicting the concurrent and longitudinal acquisition of English among a large sample of ethnically diverse, low-income, Hispanic preschool children. Participants assessed at age 4 for language, cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral skills were followed through kindergarten. Multivariate analyses demonstrated that Spanish-speaking preschoolers with greater initiative, self-control, and attachment and fewer behavior problems at age 4 were more successful in obtaining English proficiency by the end of kindergarten compared to those initially weaker in these skills, even after controlling for cognitive/language skills and demographic variables. Also, greater facility in Spanish at age 4 predicted the attainment of English proficiency. Social and behavioral skills and proficiency in Spanish are valuable resources for low-income English language learners during their transition to school.
Harmonious bilingual development is the experience of well-being in a language contact situation involving young children and their families. While so far no systematic ethnographic studies of harmonious bilingual development exist, the following constituting elements are proposed: the use of parent-child conversations employing basically a single language, children's active use of two languages rather than just one, and children's more or less equal proficiency in each language. The factors contributing to these elements most likely are positive attitudes to early bilingualism, discourse socialization patterns and the frequency with which children hear each language.
This was the conclusion of this German chapter:
Das ignorieren und dadurch implizit geringschätzen der Nichtumgebungssprache von Kleinkindern in Kindertagesstätten oder in Kindergärten ist keine gute Voraussetzung für die Entwicklung von kindlichem Wohlbefinden und verhindert eine gute Integration von Kindern in der Kindeseinrichtung und in der Gesellschaft. Das Zeigen einer aktiven Offenheit zu allen kindlichen Nichtumgebungssprachen in Kindertagesstätten und in Kindergärten ist empfehlenswert, denn solche Offenheit bedeutet eine Wertschätzung, die unentbehrlich ist für eine bessere Integration unserer Kleinkinder in der Kindeseinrichtung insbesonders, und im Leben im allgemeinen."
Ignoring and thus implicitly undervaluing the non-societal language of toddlers in daycare centers or preschools is not a good basis for the development of children's well-being and prevents children from integrating well in preschool and in society. Instead, daycare and preschool staff should show an active openness to all non-societal languages in daycare centers and preschools. Such openness shows an appreciation of children's languages that is indispensable for a better integration of our toddlers in early education, and in life in general.
Language is of central importance in parenting. This becomes particularly clear in a minority context, where parents may be pressured into speaking a language to children that they hardly know, or where children may not speak the language that their parents speak with them. Because of linguistic issues, minority language background parents may feel insecure in their parenting role, and their children's positive development may be adversely affected. This chapter reviews research from various research traditions in the currently (2015) 28 countries of the European Union that can potentially inform relations between language use by parents with a minority language background as an integral part of parenting and young children's socioemotional well-being. Few European research projects so far have specifically addressed the complex relations between the language related aspects of parenting in minority language background families and children's socioemotional well-being. However, the evidence brought together here supports the notion that children's minority language use and proficiency as mediated by their parents' linguistic choices and practices positively affects both parents' and young children's well-being, thus contributing to harmonious bilingual development.
Hilde De Smedt's conclusion was:
"Een positief verhaal
Wat ik tot slot wil meegeven, is dat we samen met de gezinnen bijna altijd een positief verhaal kunnen schrijven. Er is binnen gezinnen een sterke dynamiek, ook al moet die even worden aangewakkerd. Vaak moet bij ouders vooral het geloof in hun eigen opvoedingspotentieel worden hersteld en moeten ouders en kinderen met elkaar in gesprek gaan over wat leven met al die talen voor elk van hen betekent. Een tijd geleden zag ik een Roemeense papa voor een adviesgesprek over zijn zoontje van drie dat nog niet sprak. Drie maanden later zag ik de fiere papa opnieuw. Minder uren op de 'tablet' en meer samen doen hebben dan al geresulteerd in beginnende communicatie waar papa en zoon veel plezier aan beleven."
"A positive story
Finally, what I want to say is that together with the families we can almost always write a positive story. There is a strong dynamic within families, even if it needs to be stimulated. Often parents have to restore faith in their own child rearing potential and parents and children have to talk to each other about what living with all those languages means for each of them. A while ago I saw a Romanian dad for a consultation about his three year old son who was not yet speaking. Three months later I saw the proud dad again. Fewer hours on the "tablet" and doing more together had already resulted in first communication steps that both father and son were enjoying."
This was the conclusion:
"The inability or reluctance of some bilingual children to speak one of their languages is a phenomenon that baffles researchers and parents. The present study sheds light on this relatively unexplored area of child bilingualism in its investigation of two receptive bilingual children who spoke very little of their weaker language from the onset of speech and mainly interacted with their fathers dual-lingually. With regard to the first research question on the children's language use, the results showed that they produced their weaker language to some extent. Nevertheless, in contrast to the many spontaneous and independent Japanese utterances, the children's weaker language productions were mainly rote-learned, elicited or mimicked. Concerning the second and third questions on the use of discourse strategies and its effect on weaker language production, the results revealed that the fathers' prevalent use of the 'move-on' strategy perpetuated dual-lingual interactions, and contributed to their children's receptive bilingualism. The children were mostly unresponsive to the fathers' occasional use of 'constraining' discourse strategies and the 'adult repetition' strategy. These findings reiterate the importance of using these discourse strategies in the early years to establish active bilingualism. Once parents and children become accustomed to interacting dual-lingually, it may be difficult to reverse this mode of interaction."
We live in uncertain times in an uncertain world. While large-scale efforts exist to end poverty, promote peace, share wealth, and protect the planet, we are witnessing serious deterioration of solidarity and respect for human diversity, coupled with alarming tides of authoritarian populism in the West. Many multilinguals—even more so multilinguals in marginalized communities—are vulnerable in the present climate. Researching bi/multilingualism is the business of second language acquisition (SLA) researchers. How well equipped is this field to respond to the present challenges? In this article I unpack four constraints that I believe hamper SLA's capacity to generate useful knowledge about multilingualism. One is a disciplinary identity that is built around the language two of learners and the late timing of learning. The second constraint is the adherence to an essentialist ontology of language that considers it a system separate from the act of communication. A third constraint is a teleological view of linguistic development benchmarked against an ideal monolingual native speaker model. The fourth and final constraint is the disaffection for ethics, values, power, and ideologies, all of which are considered inappropriate disciplinary content. Tempering such a pessimistic view, some hopeful signs suggest SLA's research habitus is changing and may soon be better suited to investigate gradient, equitable multilingualism in all its forms. In this spirit of hope, I suggest nine strategies that would help SLA researchers better investigate the human capacity for language and support equitable multilingualism in today's uncertain world.
Many children around the world grow up bilingual, learning and using two or more languages in everyday life. Currently, however, children's language backgrounds are not always reported in developmental studies. There is mounting evidence that bilingualism interacts with a wide array of processes including language, cognitive, perceptual, brain, and social development, as well as educational outcomes. As such, bilingualism may be a hidden moderator that obscures developmental patterns, and limits the replicability of developmental research and the efficacy of psychological and educational interventions. Here, we argue that bilingualism and language experience in general should be routinely documented in all studies of infant and child development regardless of the research questions pursued, and provide suggestions for measuring and reporting children's language exposure, proficiency, and use.
This article (in Dutch) critically examines the legal, pedagogic and scientific basis for the frequent ban on the use of languages other than Dutch by students in Flemish schools, which are held by law to teach only in Dutch, except in foreign language classes. Belgian law allows schools to develop a language policy for students as they please, but the ban on the use of other languages than Dutch is against the United Nations' Convention of Child Rights, which Belgium ratified in 1992. Schools believe that a ban will benefit students' knowledge of Dutch and academic achievement. There is no scientific basis for this belief. Furthermore, the ban may have severe negative consequences for students' well-being. Thus, schools should stop issuing the ban. Instead, as stipulated by the UN Convention, they should develop initiatives actively valuing all the languages that children bring to school.
Are you raising your child bilingually, or planning to do so in the future, but are unsure how to proceed? Using a question-and-answer format, this practical and reassuring guide will enable readers to make informed decisions about how to raise their child with two or more languages. To grow up bilingually is a necessity or an opportunity for more children today than ever before. However, parents are frequently uncertain about what to do, or even fear that they may be putting their child's development at risk. Disentangling fact from myth, it shows that a child can acquire more than one 'first' language simultaneously and that one language need not have negative effects on the other. Each chapter is devoted to a question typically asked by parents in counselling sessions, followed by a concise answer, summaries of the evidence and practical tips.
Impact belief is the conviction that parents have that they can affect their children's language development (De Houwer, 1999). This paper investigates how parents' impact belief is shaped and how it transpires into language management which supports the bilingual and biliterate development of children in exogamous families. Interviews with eight English-speaking parents raising English-Japanese bilingual children in Tokyo, Japan were analyzed using the constructive grounded approach (Charmaz, 2014). The results revealed that the parents' impact belief was influenced by their individual experiences, the support of their Japanese spouses, and peer influence. Specifically, it was positively affected by other parents with older bilingual children. The parents' impact belief was also strengthened by their involvement in 'communities of practice,' i.e., English playgroup and weekend school. Their strong impact belief led to language management efforts which included their insistence on their children speaking English and the regular practice of home literacy activities.
The study of how people learn new languages beyond the time of primary language socialization and outside the family unit has given rise to the field known as second language acquisition (SLA). This chapter offers a selective characterization of the field of SLA. I first characterize SLA and compare it to other fields that study bilingualism. Next, I synthesize key findings in two areas of central importance: the role of previously known languages, and the contribution of the surrounding linguistic environment. The remainder of the chapter examines the question of how successful L2 learning can be. I do so by first problematizing the notion of success, and then inspecting SLA research into two important populations of adult L2 learners: immigrants and international students. Throughout, I argue that the enterprise of L2 learning has a fundamental potential for success and must ultimately be understood as a road to late-timed, sequential bilingualism.
The Douglas Fir Group (2016) sought to articulate a transdisciplinary agenda for SLA but said little about multilingualism specifically. Moreover, many multilinguals are under siege in a worrisome world where threats to human difference have risen to the mainstream in the aftermath of Brexit and the 2016 U.S. presidential election. I argue that considering multilingualism as the central object of inquiry and embracing social justice as an explicit disciplinary goal are two moves necessary to provide sustainable support for the kind of transdisciplinary SLA that the Douglas Fir Group (2016) envisioned. I examine some missing pieces of the puzzle of transdisciplinary transformation that may make it possible for SLA researchers, and particularly those who investigate linguistic–cognitive dimensions of language learning, to contribute knowledge about the human capacity for language while supporting equitable multilingualism for all.
The current study seeks to illustrate the relationships between child bilinguals' mother tongue language (MTL) exposure and reading activities at home, children's receptive MTL proficiency, and their socio-emotional and behavioral skills (SEBS). Data from 202 Singapore preschoolers (4–5 years old) who are learning English and Mandarin were analyzed. A parental questionnaire and standard Mandarin tests (i.e., receptive vocabulary, receptive grammar) were used to assess children's Mandarin language-literacy environment at home, as well as their receptive language skills in Mandarin. Children's SEBS were evaluated with the strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) (parental version). A series of variables which might influence SEBS and MTL proficiency (e.g., gender and SES) were controlled and SEMs were used to conduct data analysis. Results demonstrated that both Mandarin language and literacy environmental factors are related to children's receptive language outcomes in Mandarin, while only literacy environmental factors associate with children's difficulty level, and prosocial skills. This suggests that good parental support in bilingual children's MTL literacy should be promoted not only for the sake of their early language development but also because of the potential benefits to their social emotional wellbeing.
This chapter discusses the subjective well-being of pre-adult children and their parents living in bilingual settings. This type of well-being is subsumed under the term Harmonious Bilingualism. The chapter reviews empirical research giving insight into bilingual family members' levels of Harmonious Bilingualism. The well-being of young children who do not yet know the societal language is threatened if their home language is ignored in early care and education and no active steps are undertaken to aid their learning of the new language. While children always end up speaking the societal language, many end up not speaking the home language (or do not speak it well), in spite of hearing it at home. This negatively impacts child-parent relationships and affects both parental and child well-being. At any age, children's well-developed dual language proficiency is central to Harmonious Bilingualism for children and parents alike. The chapter ends by outlining the most urgent needs for research into a better understanding of well-being for families in bilingual settings.
The first time a publication approached the question in the title was twenty years ago (De Houwer 1999). At the time, very little research was available that could address the question. Although we do not have all the answers, several research projects in the last two decades have helped to find the underlying causes. This contribution reviews research that either directly or indirectly addresses the problem of single language use by bilingually raised children – it is indeed a problem, because parents tend to be very upset if their child does not speak their language. Amongst others, the contribution focuses on the role of parental input patterns, the quantity of language input, parental discourse strategies, parental and child attitudes towards the languages involved, and the role of institutions such as day care centers and preschools.
(German) Vor zwanzig Jahren stellte De Houwer (1999) die Frage, warum junge Kinder, die in zwei Sprachen erzogen wurden, nur eine Sprache sprechen. Zu jener Zeit gab es kaum Forschung, die dieser Frage nachging. Dieser Beitrag blickt zurück auf die Forschung der letzten zwei Jahrzehnte, die direkt oder indirekt das Problem der Einsprachigkeit bei zweisprachig erzogenen Kindern behandelt. Besprochen werden, u.a., die Rolle der sprachliche Input-Muster der Eltern, die Quantität des Inputs, die elterlichen Diskursstrategien, die Spracheinstellungen von Kindern und die Rolle von Institutionen wie Tagesstätten und Vorschulen.
Citation/Quelle: De Houwer, A. (1999). Environmental factors in early bilingual development: the role of parental beliefs and attitudes. In G. Extra & L. Verhoeven (Eds.), Bilingualism and migration (pp. 75-95). Berlin, Germany: Mouton de Gruyter.
Here you can find continuously updated bibliographies of academic publications directly and less directly relating to harmonious bilingualism and harmonious bilingual development, as well as information about methodological tools and links to scholars and laboratories that are investigating harmonious bilingualism.
This page will be continuously expanding. If you find anything that you think could be useful please let us know. And of course we'd love to hear from you if you are carrying out research on harmonious bilingualism yourself.
Resources of a more general nature can be found here.
BILTALK is a questionnaire on Polish-German and English-German early bilingualism that was developed for parents of 3-year-old children. It asks both mothers and fathers on a detailed level about language interaction with their 3-year-olds. The materials were developed in English, German, and Polish. You can find the English version here but you can request the German and/or Polish version (please take a look at the file first to see if it might fit your needs).
Series on childhood bilingualism
HaBilnet recently started publishing online expert classes on childhood bilingualism. These consist of Powerpoint presentations accompanied by narrations. Both undergraduate and graduate students may find these useful. Scholars in linguistics, psychology and education who do not work on (childhood) bilingualism may use this resource to get a relatively quick idea of basic knowledge on the topic.
Classes typically are around one hour in length. They are fairly slowly paced to allow audiences with variable listening and reading proficiency in English to follow.
Typical language learning settings & trajectories for early child bilingualism – A class by Dr. Annick De Houwer, HaBilNet Director. This class is foundational in that it explains the three major language learning environments for children under age 6: Monolingual First Language Acquisition, Bilingual First Language Acquisition and Early Second Language Acquisition. This class is mainly based on the book Bilingual First Language Acquisition, by Annick De Houwer, 2009, Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
Bilingual First Language Acquisition compared to Early Second Language Acquisition – A class by Dr. Annick De Houwer, HaBilNet Director. This class builds on Class 1. It explains the fundamental differences and similarities between the two types of early child bilingualism: Bilingual First Language Acquisition (BFLA) and Early Second Language Acquisition (ESLA). Distinguishing amongst these two types is paramount for understanding child bilingual development under age 6.