Bilingual literacies interacting: A longitudinal case study through primary schooling

Year: 1997

Author: Aidman, Marina

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The paper reports a longitudinal case study that examined the development of early bilingual literacy. A simultaneously bilingual female child was observed over a period of almost five years (from the pre-school through mid-primary years) while receiving mainstream schooling in English and being simultaneously immersed in a minority language (Russian) in her home life. The written texts produced by the child in either of her two languages over this five year period, both in the school and at home were analysed using the systemic functional methodology (Halliday, 1994). The child's classroom peers' written texts were sampled for comparative analysis.

The findings provide evidence that language development in one of the bilingual's languages tends to support the development in the other. There have been differentiated text types in the child's English writing that were not explicitly taught in English and even some genres not typically found in the same age monolinguals’ writing. These genres have been scaffolded using the minority language, thus indicating that aspects of schematic structures and grammar mastered in one language can be carried across to a second language and stimulate the emergence of new written genres in it. One other advantage of early biliterate development appears to be the child's competency in a LOTE as well as in English, including the ability to read and write in that language. Overall the findings support the hypothesis of the interdependence of bilinguals' languages development (Cummins, 1984, 1996), in the area of written genre learning.