Language of origin and language at school: are language skills transferable?

Responsibility: Prof. Raphael Berthele and Amelia Lambelet (RCM); research assistants: Fabricio Decândio and Carlos Pestana (RCM), Magalie Desgrippes (University of Fribourg); 2012-2014

The project "Language of origin and language at school: are language skills transferable?" has been initiated to explore potential transfers between the language of origin and the language spoken at school in schoolchildren who attend heritage language and culture (HLC) courses. A particular focus is placed on reading and writing skills.

The project builds on research done by Moser et al. (2008) within the National Research Programme 56. This project focused on the transfer of language skills from the first language to the language spoken at school in 4 to 6-year-old children with an immigration background. Children who attended courses to advance their L1 were compared with their peers who did not participate in a programme to promote their language skills.

In the current project, the focus is placed on reading comprehension and writing skills in the second language of slightly older schoolchildren (8 to 9 years of age). The results aim to provide supplementary information to the work of Moser et al. (2008), which was concerned mainly with phonological awareness and with vocabulary. The current project also examines whether transfers between L1 and L2 are more pronounced between closely related languages than between languages with a disparate typology.

The project examines children in the 5th to 6th year of primary school (according to HarmoS) who have Portuguese roots. Their language skills in both Portuguese and the language at school (either French or German) undergo assessment at three different periods of time: before they attend HLC courses, and after one and two years of attendance.