F+R=X: How effective is multilingual education?


In Finland and Russia, languages of the neighboring countries are taught at schools and day-care centers specializing in multilingual education, and we want to look closely at the type of bilingualism that such educational institutions (operating in Finnish and Russian) form. The project will observe working models of bilingual education and out-of-school, extracurricular interactions in either language; a variety of bilingual abilities and intercultural encounters; multilingualism as a societal resource; dynamics of language possession and proficiency, order, facility, and swiftness with which certain skills are acquired; parallelism or discrepancy in lags of proficiency, influence or interference between languages and cultures, transfer of abilities from one language to another. The project will demonstrate types of bilingual speakers the schools produce; extent to which curriculum languages are learned; whether they are balanced or not; organizational problems which impede bilingual education; factors promoting language acquisition and development, the role of the age factor; bilingual identities, collective and otherwise, to be formed at bilingual schools. For both languages, we will collect, tape-record, transcribe, and analyze interactions happening in the everyday life of students during the lessons and pauses, and attitudes of people involved in the bilingual educational process. Special psycholinguistic experiments, daily problem- solving tasks, and problem-based assessment of linguistic abilities are designed for bilingual speakers aged 3 to 18. Formal tests will be compared for different sets of assessment procedures and supported through qualitative methods and self-monitoring of students.

The project will benefit from a close cooperation between the Finnish and the Russian Teams. Studies of bilingualism are perhaps the most natural scientific field in which to join and combine the efforts of sociolinguists, experts in first and second language teaching and assessment, and psycholinguists from the two University of Helsinki departments (Department of Slavonic and Baltic Languages and Literatures; Department of Finnish language and literature) and the Russian counterparts (University of St Petersburg, Petrozavodsk University). Interpretation of the language use will require and benefit from the experience of all participants. The practical dissemination of results should help to enhance neighbour language teaching on either side of the border and ameliorate the bilingual schools models in both countries. Two doctoral dissertations, two Master’s theses, a volume of articles, tests and practical recommendations for schools will be resulting from the project.
Effective start/end date01/01/200931/12/2011