ArticlePDF Available

How and Why Bilingualism is Being Promoted by Omani Parents and How Bilingualism is Impacting their Children's Everyday Lives

Authors:

Abstract

Abstract: Expectations of the globalized society and changes in family dynamics have a significant impact on children’s development as supported by the Ecological Systems Theory. Parents have become more interested in raising their children as bilinguals as it has become an inescapable trend, particularly in certain regions of the world. Children of the Gulf are also affected by this bilingualism movement. Therefore, this study attempts to understand the bilingual children of the Gulf in the case of Oman by addressing three major research questions: (1) “why and how bilingualism is being promoted by parents”, (2) “how bilingualism is impacting on the intergenerational relationships in the Gulf family”, and (3) “how bilingualism is impacting Gulf children's everyday lives”. Participants were ten parents whose children were enrolled at a bilingual education program at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). The data was collected through interviews and the case study approach was deployed in data analysis. Findings were revealed about why and how parents promote bilingualism, to what extent the bilingualism impact on the intergenerational relations, and the effects of bilingualism on children’s everyday lives. Implications and recommendations for policy, practice, and research are offered. Keywords: bilingual education; early childhood bilingualism; early childhood education; language development; intergenerational relations.
136
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research
Vol. 18, No. 12, pp. 136-149, December 2019
https://doi.org/10.26803/ijlter.18.12.9
How and Why Bilingualism is Being Promoted
by Omani Parents and How Bilingualism is
Impacting their Children’s Everyday Lives
Ali Kemal Tekin
*
College of Education, Sultan Qaboos University
School of Education, University of South Australia
Laila Al-Salmi
College of Education,
Sultan Qaboos University
Abstract: Expectations of the globalized society and changes in family
dynamics have a significant impact on children’s development as
supported by the Ecological Systems Theory. Parents have become more
interested in raising their children as bilinguals as it has become an
inescapable trend, particularly in certain regions of the world. Children
of the Gulf are also affected by this bilingualism movement. Therefore,
this study attempts to understand the bilingual children of the Gulf in
the case of Oman by addressing three major research questions: (1)
“why and how bilingualism is being promoted by parents”, (2) “how
bilingualism is impacting on the intergenerational relationships in the
Gulf family”, and (3) “how bilingualism is impacting Gulf children's
everyday lives”. Participants were ten parents whose children were
enrolled at a bilingual education program at Sultan Qaboos University
(SQU). The data was collected through interviews and the case study
approach was deployed in data analysis. Findings were revealed about
why and how parents promote bilingualism, to what extent the
bilingualism impact on the intergenerational relations, and the effects of
bilingualism on children’s everyday lives. Implications and
recommendations for policy, practice, and research are offered.
Keywords: bilingual education; early childhood bilingualism; early
childhood education; language development; intergenerational
relations.
*
Corresponding author: Ali Kemal Tekin, Email: tekn@squ.edu.om; Tel.: +96893284364
137
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
1.1. Background & Context
In today’s world, parental roles have been extended to involvement in all
aspects of their children’s education and development, from decision making
with respect to the curriculum of educational programs, to language
development. In contemporary early childhood education settings, parents are
eager to be more involved in their young children’s educational lives and are
required to do so regardless of traditionally held gender role stereotypes. For
example, schools ask fathers to be more involved in their young children’s
education and development. As Ancell, Bruns, and Chiyito (2018) claimed, it is
beyond their traditional role and responsibilities of financial support and
protection. The new generation of parents has welcomed these expectations and
is showing more interest in extending their dynamic role in their children’s
education due to societal development. In this regard, many parents are highly
motivated to become involved in their children’s education from volunteering to
learning at home. Their major motivation is to ensure that their children possess
what it takes for their globalized future life and become better functioning
individuals in modern society. This transformation of the parental roles and
transition in education-concentrated active parenting is also echoed in the Gulf
context in general and Omani context, in particular.
Oman is located in the Southeastern Arabian Peninsula and a member of the
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Its population is 4,690,283 and among this
population, 56.40 percent are Omani and 43.60 percent are expatriates (National
Center for Statistics and Information, 2019). Its population is predominantly
Muslim. The country’s nominal GDP per capita was 19,310 USD in 2014 and it
was 40,122 USD based on purchasing power parity (PPP) (World Bank, 2019)
and its main revenues are from natural gas and oil. Today, there are 1,149 public
schools in the country, educating a student population of 603,797 (Ministry of
Education, 2019).
In addition to the efforts of the Omani Government to enhance its education
system to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 4.2 by 2030
with respect to the quality of early education, there are also economic, social,
and cultural transformations demanding changes from the educational sector.
Bilingual education is one of the foremost desired components of the new
demands from the educational institutions. As stated by Rose and Tudge (2013),
all dynamic concepts and applications, particularly in the social life, are subject
to change within the chronosystem through an interaction with the
environmental elements and social dimensions both at the micro and macro
levels. Therefore, children’s education is also expected to evolve to
accommodate new programs with contemporary applications. In line with this
notion of change, the world has been going through inescapable globalization
that is almost dictating to people everywhere to learn more languages, especially
English. Consistent with these developments, the country’s strategic plan-
Vision 2040- English is perceived by the government and society as an
overarching dimension of growth. As a result, the teaching and learning of
138
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
English and bilingualism will continue to be a major concern in Oman and the
Gulf in the coming decades.
Omani parents, empowered by the new child law are not immune to these
developments. Consequently, they have started to demand educational systems
that would create bilingual individuals who would easily integrate with the
global community. This phenomenon has been closely observed especially by
the private educational entrepreneurship in the country, leading them to found
many bilingual institutions proposing education programs in two languages,
Arabic (L1) and English (L2), as early as the preschool years as many new early
bilingual education programs have been introduced. In compliance with
bilingualism prevalent in the society and bilingual programs in education, the
national university of Oman, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), took the initiative
to establish a Child Care Center (CCC) in 2007 on-campus to set a model for
early bilingual education in the country. In order to achieve this goal, the Center
provides a 50/50 balance between two languages. This aspect of the CCC’s
program attracts many parents to enroll their children in the program.
The research about early bilingualism and early bilingual education is severely
limited in the Gulf context. To the authors’ knowledge, there has been no study
conducted in the Gulf context investigating specifically the parents’ beliefs
particularly about how and why they support early bilingualism, how the
bilingualism of their children is interacting with family dynamics such as
relationships, and how bilingualism is impacting their children’s everyday lives.
These topics should be investigated in order to fully understand the bilingual
movement and phenomenon of bilingual children of the Gulf. This information
could be retrieved best from the parents as they are the most reliable source of
information by being primary caregivers of children, first educators of their
children, and main decision-makers of their children’s formal and informal
educations who are also expected to be involved in their children’s learning and
practicing process both as observant and active participants. Hence, the scope of
this study is to explore how and why bilingualism is being promoted by Omani
parents and how bilingualism is impacting their children’s everyday lives.
1.2. Literature Review
Early bilingualism is supported by the “Critical Period Hypothesis” (CPH),
which claims learning a second language is easier, more efficient, and successful
in early childhood years essentially because it is seen as a peak time for learning
more than one language. Children at an early age have better capacity and
competency to learn a new language than others (Peets, Yim, & Bialystok, 2019).
It also makes children faster and more efficient foreign language learners as they
learn it at the same time with their L1 because the basic aspects of language
acquisition, such as acquiring the syntactic knowledge, are similar whether
learning one or more languages at a time as asserted by Werker (2012). Hence,
early bilingualism and bilingual education should not be a source of concern.
There are quite a number of studies (e.g., Weber, Johnson, Riccio, & Liew, 2016)
in the literature that has focused on the benefits of bilingualism and bilingual
139
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
education. These benefits were found to exist in different domains of childhood
and later periods of life such as their language development. For example,
Larson-Hall, Weber, Johnshon, Riccio, and Liew (2008) conducted a study with
61 young children and found that even minimal exposure to an instructed
foreign language had a perceivable positive impact on their language
development, including the phonetic aspect of language knowledge. Also,
research evidence shows that L2 acquisition in early childhood does not have
any undesirable influence on learning L1, or other adverse effects on a child’s L1
learning and development (Dastgahian & Rostami, 2013). Instead, learning two
languages simultaneously has positive impacts on the child’s acquisition of each
language’s linguistic aspects (Yeung & Chan, 2012). For instance, the early
acquisition of a foreign language is claimed to have positive effects on reading,
writing, and spelling (Midgette & Philippakos, 2016). In line with these findings,
a review study documented that bilingual children enjoy higher levels of
metalinguistic awareness and competence than their monolingual peers (Barack
& Bialystok, 2011). They also had better English skills and better foreign accents
(Kartushina & Martin, 2019).
Similarly, research evidence indicates positive results of early bilingualism
particularly on the cognitive development of young children (Poulin-Dubois,
Blaye, Coutya, & Bialystok, 2011). For instance, it is worth mentioning that the
research was conducted through a meta-analysis of 63 studies that examined the
cognitive effects of bilingualism for children, and the results showed that early
bilingual experience produces cognitive advantages for children in the areas of
working memory, attention control, metalinguistic awareness, and abstract and
symbolic representation (Adesope, Lavin, Thompson, & Ungerleider, 2010).
More to the point, further research results showed that early bilingualism is
associated with better results for planning and decision-making skills by
bilingual children compared to monolingual peers (Bialystok, Craik, Green, &
Gollan, 2009). These cognitive benefits of early bilingualism extend across the
life span (Bialystok, Abutalebi, Bak, Burke, & Kroll, 2016). In addition, the same
topic was investigated in a Korean-English context with 56 four-year-olds and it
was found that bilingual children had a more operational network of executive
controls for conflict resolution, better speed in attention processing and
problem- than monolingual children (Yang, Yang, & Yang, 2011). Moreover,
another study was carried out with bilingual and monolingual children in a
Russian-Hebrew context and to compare certain cognitive skills (Leikin & Tovli,
2014). The results showed that balanced bilingualism is associated with the
development of creativity in children’s problem-solving skills. These findings
were consistent with a previous study conducted in a similar context, the results
of which indicated that early bilingualism had a positive impact on children’s
general and mathematical creativity (Daubert & Ramani, 2019).
Furthermore, there are research studies that have documented the positive
effects of bilingualism on children’s social development. For example, a study
was conducted by Zang and Yan (2012) with 128 Chinese kindergartners and it
was found that early bilingual education had a positive impact on young
children’s sociopragmatic and communication skills. Likewise, another study
140
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
done with 83 Turkish children reported positive impacts of early starters of
foreign language learners’ attitudes towards English compared to late starters
(Cepik & Sarandi, 2012). These findings were supported by other investigators
who concluded that bilingualism improves individuals’ social relations in a
diverse environment by freeing them from different decision biases that might
stem from heuristics and affective processes (Keysar, Hayakawa, & An, 2012).
2. Materials and Methods
Qualitative inquiry methods were recruited in this research since it is believed
that qualitative methods such as interviewing participants are more suitable to
gather in-depth information and rich data and provide detailed insights of
participants’ about a specific matter (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016). Particularly, the
case study approach was adopted and employed in this study since it aims to
gather in-depth and rich information about the aforementioned topics of
bilingualism from a specific entity, the CCC at SQU. This is a case study
analyzing the experience of bilingual education and raising young bilingual
children within a real-life, contemporary context or setting (Crowe et al., 2011).
Further, the case study method also features a bounded system (Creswell, 2016),
which in this case is the time period from 2018 specifically at the CCC.
As the current study employed the case study approach, the purposeful
sampling method was recruited to gather more concrete, solid, and detailed data
and information on the target group. The participants of the study were parents
with kindergarten children enrolled at the bilingual program of CCC at SQU.
While 32 students were registered at the CCC, only the parents of 10 (31 percent)
agreed to participate in the research studythe rest 22 (69 percent) did not
respond. The participation was on a voluntary basis. All participants were
Omani nationals.
Two tools were used to collect data in the present study: first, a demographic
survey designed to gather detailed data about participants’ age, gender, marital
status, and employment status; and a “Parental Perspectives Interview”
instrument which was recruited during the interviews with parents. This tool
was designed to obtain information on the overarching dimensions of early
bilingualism from the perspectives of parents. It consisted of three major
questions: (1) Why and how do you promote bilingualism for your child? (2)
How is bilingualism impacting on the interpersonal relationships in your
family? and (3) How is bilingualism impacting your child’s everyday life? These
questions were developed by the authors to elicit data that could be used to
address the research questions of this study.
Through the communication with the CCC administration, the researcher
discussed the objectives, scopes, and the steps of the study, and asked their
assistance in contacting the potential participants whose children were enrolled
in the bilingual kindergarten program. After securing the initial consent from
the CCC administration, the informed consent letters were sent out to the
parents along with the time schedule for the interviews.
141
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
Upon receiving parents’ responses, participants were scheduled for and
participated in interviews and completed the demographic survey. Ten parents
were interviewed at CCC and on average the interview sessions lasted between
30 to 50 minutes, though there was no set time limit for the interview sessions.
For verification, the participants were asked again to clarify responses and
ensure they had been understood correctly as a triangulation procedure
following the interviews to support validity issues as suggested by Creswell
(2016). All interviews were conducted in Arabic, transcribed, and then translated
into English by a bilingual expert in the field of early childhood education. The
back-translation processes of the interview protocols by another expert in the
field were also followed to ensure the accuracy of the gathered data.
Once the data collection procedures were completed, the investigator made use
of descriptive statistics together with case study procedures to analyze the data.
Henceforth, the responses from the participants were initially categorized in
accordance with the major themes of the study and in line with the topics and
research questions by using the thematic analysis method that enables an
inquiry’s findings to be reported in a more systemic and organized way.
Moreover, the researcher deployed the recursive examination of data through
peer review as suggested for verification confirmability (Creswell, 2016). Then,
responses were transferred into the narration by the authors. While reporting the
study, representative answers of participants were also quoted as suggested to
convey the findings of the study in a more organized and clear way and to be
able to identify the mentioned statements in rank according to their frequency
and prioritize them.
3. Findings
3.1. Why and how do parents promote bilingualism for their children?
Based on the analysis of the responses to the first part of the first question, why
they promote bilingualism for their children, several reasons emerged that was
commonly stated by the participants. First, nine of the participating parents
stated “communication and integration with the world” as one of the reasons for
promoting bilingualism for their children. For instance, Parent 9 stated,
“I promote bilingualism for my child because specifically English is the
language of the world and learning it has become a priority in this life.
By being bilingual, her communication skills will improve. Wherever we
travel inside or outside Oman, English is the means for communication.
Therefore, it is important and should be learned in order to integrate
and communicate with others.”
Supporting this perspective, Parent 1 said, “Learning a different language helps
my child learn about the different cultures and people through the literature and
the books written in that language which will essentially help with
communicating with and connecting to the world.”
Second, among ten parents, eight of them showed “future educational and
career opportunities” as one of the reasons for them promoting bilingualism for
their children. They see learning English and thus being bilingual individuals
142
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
advantageous in their children’s further academic life, in turn, future careers.
For example, Parent 6 said,
“I promote bilingualism for my son because he will need English to be
admitted by good universities, nowadays all good universities’ medium
of instruction is English. It is mostly necessary for admission. He will
also need it to have good job opportunities in his future.”
Third, four of the participants mentioned cognitive advantages as one of the
reasons for promoting bilingualism for their children. For instance, Parent 6 said,
“Another reason for me to promote my child’s bilingual development is that it
helps to improve his perception skills. In addition, it contributes to his thinking
level and complexity. I think bilingual people develop higher thinking levels.” In
line with this statement, Parent 3 said,
“I believe bilingualism helps my child’s mental growth and
development. I promote bilingualism for my child because learning
languages can help my child to improve his way of thinking. Languages
are not memorizing, rather a mental process that needs higher thinking.
It also helps with attention.”
Hence, these were the three reasons that the participants of the current study
asserted for promoting their children’s bilingualism. A few other reasons were
mentioned by individual participants such as two parents mentioned
bilingualism improving the self-confidence and two others pointed out it helps
reading.
Regarding the second part of the question, how they promote bilingualism for
their children beyond providing their children with bilingual education, the
most common answer was reading books together with their children in both
languages. This answer was given by seven participants. Three parents stated
that they talk to their children in two languages thinking that they promote their
children’s bilingual development in this way. For example, Parent 5 stated, “I
read storybooks in both languages together with my child, it helps quite a lot to
acquire both languages simultaneously. I also try to promote my child’s
bilingual development by talking to him in both languages.” The third common
method was using computer games. In addition, two parents stated that they
used educational TV shows. One participant stated that she used music. Finally,
two parents said that they did nothing specific to promote their children’s
bilingual development.
3.2. How is bilingualism impacting interpersonal relationships within the
family?
After reviewing the answers for the second interview question, it was found that
six participants observed changes in their communication with their children,
which they believed was due to bilingual development. For example, Parent 2
stated, “I have used English with my children since they were very young and
right now, they use more English than Arabic even at home and with everyone
as a means of communication.” Besides, four of these parents mentioned their
children’s confidence in their relations with them have improved because of
bilingualism. For instance, Parent 4 said,
143
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
“I think he has become more confident in his relations with us and
others. He also has become calmer and gained more self-control than
before. He can express his needs more thoughtfully. I believe these
changes are due to bilingual education.”
In favor of this statement, Parent 9 said, “Before she learned English, it was hard
for my child to express her feelings and needs, but now she has more control
over her behavior as she uses more than one language to communicate with
others.” In addition, three parents reported that they believe their children’s
interpersonal relations have improved due to bilingual development. For
instance, Parent 7 stated,
“I think my child started to feel and act more mature in his relations
with us. She also started to look for different ways to express her needs
and tries many ways to do that, which shows that she has developed
empathy. She does not use crying, for example, to communicate with
us.”
With regards to a behavioral change in their relations, Parent 4 stated,
“What I am more interested in is his behavioral change caused by
bilingualism. His behaviors in his relations with us changed a lot after
learning English. I think this is because we use English stories and books
that have a variety of subjects through reading together we can discuss a
lot of subjects and characters, what is good and bad, and how we should
behave. There are not many Arabic books providing us this
opportunity.”
Hence, based on participants’ reports, it was found that three major domains of
relations were impacted by the bilingualism. These areas were social (e.g.
communication), emotional (e.g. confidence), and behavioral (e.g. acting more
mature). No negative changes were reported by the parents. Four of the
participants stated that they did not observe any impact of bilingualism on their
interpersonal relationships with their children. For instance, Parent 10 said, “I
have not noticed any difference actually. This might be because I started to teach
him both languages since he was very young.”
3.3. How is bilingualism impacting the child’s everyday life?
The third inquiry point of this study was the impact of bilingualism on the
child’s everyday life from the perspective of their parents. The interview data
revealed several findings in this regard. First, among the participants, five
parents asserted that bilingualism had impacted their children’s everyday life in
a way that they have the confidence to socialize and communicate with the
world outside the family, especially with the non-Arabs in the country. For
example, Parent 1 said,
“My daughter started to like using English, which is a new language for
her, not only while communicating with her siblings and family but also
when we go shopping or to restaurants, she tries to speak and express
her needs with the proper language- Arabic or English- according to the
situation.”
144
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
In line with that statement, Parent 7 also stated, “She uses English with her peers
and at home. I think after she learned English, she has become more confident in
socializing with others, thus, she has made more friends. She is more social now
and she likes to meet and talk with other people. She also uses English with her
housemaid, for example.”
A second finding from the interviews was the impact of bilingualism on young
children’s use of language. Code-switching (i.e. switching the languages
deliberately and consciously, that is, an English sentence is followed by an
Arabic sentence and vice versa) and code-mixing (i.e. mixing two languages,
that is, inserting an English word into an Arabic sentence) among children while
communicating in their daily lives was reported by three parents. For instance,
Parent 10 said, “He uses English everywhere we go and he likes to do that with
his friends as well. But sometimes if he feels that the other person will not
understand him he immediately shifts to Arabic.”
Third, findings showed that bilingualism might have an impact on the child’s
literature preferences. Although it was mentioned by only one parent, it is worth
noting this aspect of the effect of bilingual education. For example, Parent 2
stated,
“My children use English when texting or writing, they also like to read
books in English more than the ones in Arabic. I think they do this
because English has become more prevalent in the community than
Arabic these days.”
On the other hand, two participants reported no impact of bilingualism on their
children’s everyday lives.
Overall, the current study revealed several important findings that contribute to
understanding the case of bilingual children. However, there needs to be further
discussion on these findings. Hence, detailed implications are provided in the
following section.
4. Discussion
The current study was carried out within a bounded system as suggested by the
case study approach, therefore, the findings cannot be generalized at a large
scale. However, there are still several important implications that can be drawn
from the findings of the present study, which also makes it possible to adapt and
apply the findings in other contexts with the condition of considering the
differences with respect to context such as the variables of participants. Several
outcomes of the study should be highlighted.
First, based on the findings of the research, it can easily be claimed that the
Omani parents are quite aware of why they promote bilingualism for their
young children. Any process or action has more chance to achieve the goal if it is
meaningful for the parties. To parents, their children being bilingual means
becoming competent in communication and integration with the world, having
better opportunities to access higher quality education and career opportunities.
These two findings show that bilingualism and particularly learning English has
145
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
become a necessity and a priority in their children’s education so they may
better function in the future society. Besides these two major findings of why the
parents would promote bilingualism for their children, there was an unexpected
finding indicating that parents were also aware of the cognitive domains of child
development that would improve through bilingualism such as higher thinking
skills, attention, and memory. The authors believe that this might be due to the
fact that the current study was conducted in a university campus environment
and the parents related to university are generally highly educated individuals.
However, parents did not mention learning technology as a reason for
promoting bilingualism. The findings also revealed that parents are motivated to
become involved in their children’s bilingual development. Based on their self-
reports, they claimed to promote bilingualism through strategies such as reading
together. However, the findings showed that the second-most common method
parents use to promote bilingualism was by talking to their children in English.
This method is not suggested as an effective way to improve the language
knowledge and skills of young children. Parents should speak to their children
in their native language, in this case, Arabic, since the parents are the major
source for children to gain the greatest language competencies in L1. By talking
to them in L2, parents are unwittingly depriving their children of a valuable
source for acquiring L1 skills, as advocated by Paradis, Genesee, and Crago
(2010). The last technique that parents mentioned they used was computer
games. As it is known, computer games are an inescapable phenomenon of
modern childhood which has become part of children’s daily lives. Thus, it is not
surprising that parents would also use them as a tool for promoting
bilingualism.
Second, regarding the impact of bilingualism on parents’ relationships with their
children, the findings showed that the way of their social development (e.g.
communication within the family) was affected by the bilingual development of
their children. For example, the parents claimed that their children started to use
English even at home and within the family. The researcher believes that this
change is due to the praise or encouragement from the parents to use L2. In
addition, they reported that their children started to have more self-confidence
and self-control in their relations than before. It is also interesting that a few
parents reported positive behavioral changes in their relations with children due
to bilingualism. It is critical to note that a parent mentioned the role of books in
L2 had a positive impact on his child’s relations, as the child learned about
model characters through those stories. It is possible if the quality of the books in
L2 is assured. However, it is difficult to ascertain whether there are no other
factors influencing a child’s change in behavior in addition to the L2-based
books.
Third, the findings of the current study showed that parents believe there are
certain areas in their children’s everyday lives impacted by bilingualism.
Communication was the main area affected by bilingualism. The parents
reported this could be seen especially in communicating with the outside world,
especially with non-Arabs in different contexts such as when shopping, at
146
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
restaurants, and with a housemaid. This phenomenon can be named as
“contextual language” since the child prefers L1 or L2 to one another depending
on the context. This finding is unique as it contributes to the area of the child’s
pragmatic language knowledge, which is knowing how to use a particular
language in a context (i.e. knowing how and what to say where, when, and to
whom). But in this case, this knowledge is extended also to the second language,
thus the child starts to develop pragmatic language knowledge skills not only in
the primary language but also in the second language. This is an impressive and
unique finding. The finding also revealed that the children’s everyday
communication was affected in a way that they would employ code-mixing and
code-switching, which are typical impacts of early bilingualism. Therefore, this
finding shows that in terms of certain attributes there are similarities in regards
to expected language patterns depicted by children which contribute to the
universality of code-mixing and code-switching behaviors among early
bilinguals.
4.1. Suggestions
Based on the findings of this research, several suggestions are made by the
researcher for educators and parents. First, educators must be informed that
family dynamics and parental roles have evolved and today’s parents are more
aware of what is good for their children and also more aware of their
expectations from education. Therefore, they should involve parents more
through discussion, decision making, and activities that would serve to reap the
utmost benefits from bilingualism. They can also provide diverse material for
children that they can take and use at home such as educational videos, literacy
materials, and software programs and conduct training workshops for parents
about how they can help their children’s bilingual development at home.
Besides, administrators should work on creating training sessions for both
teachers and parents.
Second, the study findings imply several suggestions for the parents. Parents
should be aware that they should talk in their first language to their children.
Parents should train themselves to use different techniques and methods to
contribute to their children’s bilingualism such as using educational software
programs. They should also employ beneficial communication patterns,
especially when reading with their children, such as using eye-contact and
shared reference, verbal mapping, communication loop, turn-taking,
questioning, expanding, and repeating. To be able to apply these methods, they
could be provided with seminars and workshops by parents-school-community
partnership institutions.
In addition, the findings of this study are found to be positive towards the
development of this kind of bilingual movement among the children of the
present context. However, it should be noted that English bilingualism has been
much understudied in the region and there might be real social tension in this
process. For example, the ill-prepared bilingual programs that ignore the
contextual and cultural variables such as the relationships and particularly the
communication among the family members might encourage children to be
147
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
alienated from their immediate cultural context and defect their relationships
with their immediate environment, for instance, with their extended family
members such as their grandparents. Hence, hindering nuances and adverse
effects, such as negative impacts on interpersonal communication, should also
be delineated and these types of programs should be designed in a way to
diminish the negative impacts of early bilingualism.
The present study employed the qualitative case study approach within a
bounded system. The positive findings of the study may not be generalized but
may lead to implications for similar contexts as it was a case study. Further, the
characteristics of the participants, for example, all being married or employed
indicates a need to do similar studies with participants of different backgrounds.
Therefore, there should be more studies on the same topic of bilingualism and its
impacts on relations and everyday lives with different methods and research
designs. Especially, the reasons behind any change in parent-child or
interpersonal relationships should be studied in-depth. The authors propose
several questions to be investigated in further research studies. These questions
include: (1) Why would children prefer to speak in L2 with their family
members? (2) Why would bilingual children have more confidence in their
relations with their parents? (3) What are the other reasons for bilingual
children’s behavioral changes in their relations with their parents?
Furthermore, the current study was conducted with parents based on their self-
reports. Therefore, more inquiring techniques such as observation should be
used in further research. In addition, the sample size was limited to ten
participants. Therefore, there should be more studies with larger sample size
and from different areas and diverse populations in order to draw more
universal conclusions. Lastly, the context of the present study was limited to
Oman. Further studies at a larger scale in other GCC countries would reveal
more information about bilingualism and its impacts.
References
Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A Systematic review
and meta-analysis of the cognitive correlates of bilingualism. Review of
Educational Research, 80(2), 207245. doi:10.3102/0034654310368803
Ancell, K. S., Bruns, D. A., & Chitiyo, J. (2018). The importance of father involvement in
early childhood programs. Young Exceptional Children, 21(1), 22-33.
doi:10.1177/1096250615621355
Barac, R., & Bialystok, E. (2011). Cognitive development and bilingual children. Language
Teaching, 44(1), 36-54. doi:10.1017/S0261444810000339
Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I. M., Green, D. W., & Gollan, T. H. (2009). Bilingual
minds. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 10(3), 89129.
doi:10.1177/1529100610387084
Bialystok, E., Abutalebi, J., Bak, T. H., Burke, D. M., & Kroll, J. F. (2016). Aging in two
languages: Implications for public health. Ageing Research Review, 27, 56-60.
doi:10.1016/j.arr.2016.03.003
Cepik, S., & Sarandi, H. (2012). Early and late language start at private schools in Turkey.
Education: Science, Theory & Practice, 12(4), 3199-3209.
148
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
Creswell, J. (2016). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating, quantitative
and qualitative Research (6th ed.). New York: Pearson.
Crowe, S., Cresswell, K., Robertson, A., Huby, G., Avery, A., & Sheikh, A. (2011). The
case study approach. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 11(1), 1-9.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-100
Daubert, E. N., & Ramani, G. B. (2019). Math and memory in bilingual preschoolers: The
relations between bilingualism, working memory, and numerical knowledge.
Journal of Cognition and Development, 20(3), 314-333.
doi:10.1080/15248372.2019.1565536
Dastgahian, E. S., & Rostami, H. (2013). Early bilingual acquisition: A case study in Iran.
International Journal of English Linguistics, 3(6), 97-112. doi:10.5539/ijel.v3n6p97
Kartushina, N., & Martin, C. D. (2019). Third-language learning affects bilinguals
production in both their native languages: A longitudinal study of dynamic
changes in L1, L2, and L3 vowel production. Journal of Phonetics, 77, 1-21.
doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2019.100920
Keysar, B., Hayakawa, S. L., & An, S. G. (2012). The foreign-language effect: Thinking in
a foreign tongue reduces decision biases. Psychological Sciences, 23(6), 661-668.
doi:10.1177/0956797611432178
Larson-Hall, J. Weber, R. C., Johnson, A., Riccio, C. A., & Liew, J. (2008). Weighing
benefits of studying a foreign language at a younger starting age in a minimal
input situation. Second Language Research, 24(1), 35-63.
doi:10.1177/0267658307082981
Leikin, M., & Tovli, E. (2014). Bilingualism and creativity in early childhood. Creativity
Research Journal, 26(4), 411-417. doi:10.1080/10400419.2014.961779
Merriam, S. G., & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and
implementation (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Midgette, E., & Philippakos, Z. A. (2016). Biliteracy, spelling, and writing: A case study.
The Language and Literacy Spectrum, 26, 13-30.
Ministry of Education (2019). Educational Indicators. Retrieved from
http://home.moe.gov.om/arabic/index.php
National Center for Statistics and Information (2019). Monthly statistical bulletin.
Muscat, Oman: Oman Government.
Paradis, J., Genesee, F., & Crago, M.B. (2010). Dual language development & disorders: A
handbook on bilingualism & second language learning (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD:
Brookes.
Peets, K. F, Yim, O., & Bialystok, E. (2019). Language proficiency, reading
comprehension and home literacy in bilingual children: The impact of context.
International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Advanced online
publication. doi:10.1080/13670050.2019.1677551
Poulin-Dubois, D., Blaye, A., Coutya, J., & Bialystok, E. (2011). The effects of bilingualism
on toddlers’ executive functioning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology,
108(3), 567-579. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2010.10.009
Rosa, E. M., & Tudge, J. (2013). Urie Bronfenbrenner’s theory of human development: Its
evolution from ecology to biology. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 5, 243-258.
doi:10.1111/jftr.12022
Weber, R. C., Johnson, A., Riccio, C. A., & Liew, J. (2016). Balanced bilingualism and
executive functioning in children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 19(2),
425-431. doi:10.1017/S1366728915000553
Werker, J. (2012). Perceptual foundations of bilingual acquisition in infancy. Annals of
The New York Academy of Sciences, 1251, 50-61. doi:10.1111/j.1749-
6632.2012.06484.x
149
©2019 The authors and IJLTER.ORG. All rights reserved.
World Bank (2019). Oman Country Profile. Retrieved from:
http://data.worldbank.org/country/oman
Yang, S., Yang, H. J., & Lust, B. (2011). Early childhood bilingualism leads to advances in
executive attention: Dissociating culture and language. Bilingualism: Language
and Cognition, 14(3), 412-422. doi:10.1017/S1366728910000611
Yeung, S. S., & Chan, C. K. (2012). Phonological awareness and oral language
proficiency in learning to read English among Chinese kindergarten children in
Hong Kong. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 550-568.
doi:10.1111/j.2044-8279.2012.02082.x
Zhang, L., & Yan, R. (2012). Impact of immersion teaching on English sociopragmatic
awareness of Chinese kindergarten children: A polite study. International
Education, 41(2), 3345. Retrieved
from http://trace.tennessee.edu/internationaleducation/vol41/iss2/3
Chapter
Due to globalizing world demands and the government’s ambitious goals in the education sector, the number of early childhood education (ECE) programs is constantly increasing. Oman as a country is not immune to this development where bilingual early education programs are popular. Considering these developments, Sultan Qaboos University (SQU)- the nation’s flagship university, took an important initiative and established a bilingual Child Care Center (CCC) in 2007. The CCC is supposed to be a model program and applying the Whole Child Approach (WCA). Any early childhood program needs thorough, multidimensional, and developmentally appropriate assessment and evaluation procedures to refine its practices serving its goals and objectives. However, the quality and efficiency of these procedures should also be revisited and analyzed continuously. Therefore, the present chapter attempts to take an in-depth picture of the assessment and evaluation practices at CCC by considering the tenets of WCA. Implications are discussed and recommendations are made for stakeholders.
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the impact of a study abroad (SA) English program on English and native vowel production. Basque-Spanish bilingual adolescents were assessed on their vowel production in English, Basque and Spanish before the SA program, the day after the program was completed, and four months later. The results revealed that after the SA program, participants’ English vowels were acoustically closer to English norms, revealing the effectiveness of SA programs in improving English vowel pronunciation. Yet, four months later, these benefits had faded, showing that regular input and active language use are required to maintain accurate pronunciation. SA also had effects on native production: bilingual participants showed assimilatory acoustic drift in both their languages towards the English vowel system; the extent of this drift was negatively correlated with improvements in English pronunciation. However, four months later, participants showed a ‘return’ drift towards their native norms. The results also revealed that usage frequency and switching habits played a ‘protective’ role: Frequent switching in bilinguals made the dominant native language less vulnerable to foreign-language influence. Our results suggest that factors related to the frequency and circumstances of native language use are key to authenticity in native language production.
Article
Full-text available
The overall purpose of this case study is to examine biliteracy and its effects on a young child's orthographic and writing growth. The analysis of the kindergartener's spelling development and compositional growth in reference to both language systems indicates that biliteracy had a positive effect on the student's acquisition of English orthography and fostered a well-balanced development of composition skills in both languages. The article provides suggestions that promote biliteracy in both the classroom and home settings and encourages teachers to engage in instructional practices that value linguistic diversity. Online resources for classroom practice are also included.
Article
Full-text available
This study examines the interaction effect of age in L2 attainment. It explores whether success in foreign language learning at early childhood grades varies depending on age. It also addresses the beliefs of foreign language teachers regarding the variables under review. Eighty-three 11 year-old language learners who started learning English at different ages were placed into two groups. The initial exposure of the early starters was 5-6 and of the late starters, 9-10. A set of language proficiency tests covering all four-language skills were given to the participants to determine the possible differences in the proficiency of the two groups. Also, qualitative data was collected from 6 teachers through a questionnaire that aimed to elicit their beliefs regarding the effect of age on L2 attainment. The findings showed that the early starters did not perform significantly better than the late starters in any of measures. The teachers, however, indicted that the early language learners had more positive attitude towards English compared to the late starters. Findings underscore that language attainment may involve a lot of variables and that early age may not take account of the whole issue.
Article
Full-text available
The extant research suggests bilingualism is associated with enhanced cognitive effects, most evident in attention and executive functioning (EF). The current study examined the contributions of balance in the bilingualism (Spanish–English) of children to performance-based measures and caregiver ratings of EF. Participants included 30 bilingual children. Balance in children's bilingualism was correlated with caregiver ratings of task initiation. After controlling for demographic variables, balance in bilingualism significantly accounted for 37% of the variance in ratings of children's task initiation. Additional research is needed regarding associations between dual-language exposure, linguistic competence, and cognitive development in children.
Article
Numerous studies on reading comprehension with monolingual children have shown that oral language, such as vocabulary, is an important factor in predicting reading comprehension success. However, few studies have looked at the reading comprehension performance of bilinguals, and less is known about the contributors to its success, linguistic or otherwise. Based on previous research showing weaker oral language among bilingual children, the goals of the present study are to examine how bilinguals perform in reading comprehension, along with possible contributors such as oral language and home literacy practices, in comparison with their monolingual peers. Participants were 82 children in the third grade who completed standardized language measures assessing vocabulary, grammar, and reading comprehension and whose parents completed a home literacy questionnaire. Bilingual children’s reading comprehension was comparable to monolinguals despite having lower language, and bilingual parents reported reading rate was higher than that of the monolinguals. Moreover, the contributors to this success in reading comprehension were different for the bilingual group, with oral language and home literacy playing a role. Overall, this suggests bilinguals are unique from monolinguals in the manner in which they make use of the resources available to them, linguistic and otherwise, to achieve reading comprehension success.
Article
Bilingual children exhibit enhanced working memory (WM) skill relative to monolingual children, which could have implications for early mathematics development. Competency in mathematics is supported by conceptual and procedural mathematical knowledge, and numerical knowledge is in turn supported by underlying cognitive processes such as WM. Building on this evidence, we investigated whether bilingual preschoolers demonstrated, relative to monolingual peers, enhanced performance on WM and greater numerical knowledge. We examined the role of WM in numerical understanding for both monolingual and bilingual children. Participants were 4- and 5-year old children (74) recruited from preschools serving families from a range of socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Participants completed a nonverbal WM task and a range of numerical-knowledge measures, specifically numeral identification, addition, symbolic magnitude comparison, and nonsymbolic magnitude comparison tasks. Results revealed that bilingual children outperformed monolingual peers on WM even after controlling for age and socioeconomic status (SES). Bilingual children also demonstrated greater performance on addition and numeral identification tasks. For all tasks except numeral identification, WM predicted children’s performance on numerical knowledge measures. We discuss results in terms of the possible unique cognitive and academic advantages bilingual children may have.
Article
This study examined the possible effect of bilingualism on creativity in nonmathematical and mathematical problem solving among bilingual and monolingual preschoolers. Two groups of children (M age = 71.9 months, SD = 3.6) from the same monolingual kindergartens participated in this study: 15 Russian/Hebrew balanced bilinguals and 16 native Hebrew-speaking monolinguals. All children were administered the Working Memory Test, the Verbal (Semantic) Fluency Test, the Pictorial Multiple Solution Task on general creativity, and the Creating Equal Number Task on mathematical creativity. The results showed that balanced bilingualism has a positive effect on the development of creativity in problem solving, but that the effect differs according to the domain: verbal, general, or mathematical creativity.