Perspectives on the ‘silent period’ for emergent bilinguals in England

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Bligh, CA (2015)
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis

This paper draws together the research findings from two ethnographic studies (Drury, 2007; Bligh, 2011) as a means to problematize the ‘silent period’ as experienced by young bilingual learners in two English speaking early years settings in England. Most teachers and senior early years practitioners in England are monolingual English speakers. The children (regardless of their mother tongue) are taught through the medium of spoken and written English in and through all subject areas. Bilingual learning through the mother tongue is not only disregarded in most schools in England but is actively discouraged in some.\ud \ud Three emergent bilingual learners were re-examined as case studies. Suki and Adyta (Bligh, 2011) of Japanese and Punjabi decent and Nazma (Drury, 2007) of Kashmiri descent were observed whilst they each negotiated new ways of knowing within and through an English pre-school setting. Sociocultural insights into how these young children employ their silenced mother tongue to negotiate their learning creates a fuller and richer portrait of the emergent bilingual learner both in and outside of preschool.\ud \ud These collaborative research findings present the silent period as agentive (Drury, 2007) and as a crucial time for self-mediated learning (Bligh, 2011) within the early years community of practice.
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