Effects of multilingualism on Australian infants’ language environments in early childhood education centers

Fiona Zheng*, Sheila Degotardi, Naomi Sweller, Emilia Djonov

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This study investigates differences in the language environments experienced by multilingual and monolingual infants in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings. The Language Environment Analysis (LENA) technology was used to collect day-long audio-recordings from 181 one-year-old infants (age range from 12 to 21 months). We examined whether infants’ multi-lingual status predicts the amount of educators’ language input (adult word count, AWC), child vocalizations (CVC) and conversational turns (CTC), as well as interaction effects on AWC, CVC and CTC of infants’ multilingual status and other infant, home and ECEC characteristics. Multi-level mixed effects models revealed no main effect of infants’ multilingual status on the language environment outcome variables. Instead, infant gender significantly predicted adult word count, with female infants hearing more words from educators than male infants. There was a significant interaction effect between the infants’ multilingual status and both their age and length of time in an ECEC setting on child vocalizations. While monolingual infants produced more vocalizations as their age increased, multilingual infants did not show this increase in vocalizations with age. Further, the difference between monolingual and multilingual children’s vocalizations decreased as the length of time in ECEC increased. There were no significant predictors of conversational turns. Findings from this study suggest that early childhood educators do not adjust their talk according to the multilingual status of the infants. However, multilingual infants do not increase their vocalizations as their age increases to the same extent as do their monolingual peers. The
interaction effect between multilingualism and the length of ECEC attendance also implies that ECEC environments may be particularly beneficial for supporting multilingual infants’ vocalizations. This study highlights the need to provide pedagogical support to educators to help them to encourage multilingual infants’ vocalizations in ECEC settings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101799
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Volume70
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • Language Environment Analysis (LENA)
  • early childhood education centers
  • infant
  • educators’ language input
  • child vocalization

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