Translanguaging within an Early Years setting in England: the use of languages by young Polish bilingual learners

Pilcher, Madeleine (2022). Translanguaging within an Early Years setting in England: the use of languages by young Polish bilingual learners. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00014c41

Abstract

This research study investigates how three four-year-old Polish bilingual learners, use translanguaging whilst acquiring English during their first year of schooling. It is argued that if practitioners support translanguaging in the classroom then children’s bilingualism is seen to be valued (Cheatham, Jiminez-Siva and Park, 2015). There are, however, only a small number of research studies that have investigated how translanguaging is used in an Early Years setting to scaffold language learning (Kirsch, 2018; Kirsch and Seele, 2020; Lewis, Jones and Baker, 2012) and little research of this kind has been carried out in England to date. This thesis, therefore, seeks in part to address this gap and demonstrates how the children make use of translanguaging in different ways to communicate and how translanguaging scaffolds their language learning.

The research was conducted during one academic year in an Early Years setting within a primary school in England. Data were collected through audio-recordings, supplemented by field notes of the three children participating in a wide range of activities. Interviews were also carried out with their class teacher, Teaching Assistant, head teacher and their parents. A case study approach was adopted and thematic analysis used to categorise the data according to recurring themes that had arisen during the research.

Findings indicate that the children respond appropriately in either English or Polish to meet the contextual need and communicate through translanguaging, to mediate understandings, co-construct meanings, include and exclude others and demonstrate knowledge. Findings also show how the children’s translanguaging practices over the year act as a scaffold for both of their languages and thus for language learning, enabling the children to communicate confidently in both English and Polish with peers and adults.

Recommendations for Early Years teachers are presented to suggest ways in making use of first languages to scaffold the children’s language learning in the classroom. Finally, implications are discussed for Early Years policy and implementations.

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