Cand.ed. Helene Fulland

Title of dissertation:

Language minority children's perspectives on being bilingual - On 'bilanguagers' and their sensitivity towards complexity.


This thesis addresses bilingualism by looking into how language minority children in the Norwegian context perceive being bilingual. More specifically, three dimensions of bilingualism were addressed: language use within the family, language use with and among peers speaking the same first language, and attitudes towards the importance of possessing skills in the two languages. The study is based on data gathered in individual semi-structured interviews with 56 Turkish-speaking and Urdu-speaking preadolescents (grade 5) in Norway. The interview combined a standard set of fixed-choice questions with a more open-ended, individually tailored approach. The children’s perspectives emerged from their self-ratings on pre-defined categories and from their elaborative talk during the interview. Three main findings are reported. Firstly, the study illustrated the great variability in how the children perceived themselves as language users within the family and among friends. Secondly, the study revealed that while overwhelmingly ascribing great importance to being well skilled in Norwegian, the children displayed more nuanced perceptions of the importance of being well skilled in their first language. Thirdly, the study identified 13 themes, which elaborate on the children’s perceptions of language use and skills in parent-child communication, bilingualism in multilingual peer contexts, and the importance of language as a skill and language as a marker of belonging. In conclusion, the children in this sample demonstrated a sensitivity towards complexities of their bilingual realities, involving an awareness of possessing a language learner identity, of experiencing their own bilingualism as inclusive and exclusive in monolingual and multilingual contexts, and of exploring multiple markers of belonging when constructing their own (bilingual) realities. A broadened understanding of children’s meaning making of bilingualism in middle childhood underscores the importance of acknowledging bilingualism as it unfolds at the individual level; for the individual child and family. The study further points to the need to incorporate bilingual realities and multicompetences into future research and education. The study was conducted at the Department of Education, the Faculty of Educational Sciences (University of Oslo).


Published Oct. 21, 2016 4:02 PM - Last modified Mar. 1, 2017 10:42 AM