Language@Leeds Distinguished Speaker 2017-18 Professor Ianthi Tsimpli

  • Date: Thursday 14 June 2018
  • Baines Wing Miall LT (2.34): 2:00 - 3:00 pm
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Multilingualism and multiliteracy in primary school children in India: Linguistic and cognitive effects.

A starting point of this research is that bilingualism and multilingualism have revealed cognitive advantages and good learning skills in children raised in Western societies. Multilingualism is the norm in India. However, rather than enjoying cognitive and learning advantages, multilingual Indian children show  low levels of basic learning skills including critical thinking and problem-solving. This project seeks to disentangle the causes of this paradox.
The main aim is to understand how structural and language inequalities affect educational quality. Language inequalities arise because a large number of children in India are deprived of receiving mother-tongue support, being instructed only in the regional language and English, often from teachers with poor teaching qualifications and practices or limited knowledge of the language of instruction. Teaching practices in India are teacher- and textbook-centred with detrimental effects on the development of critical thinking and problem solving abilities. These skills are fundamental in every learning process including numeracy and the understanding of mathematics.
Each child’s language, literacy and numeracy skills was evaluated at two time points with a one year interval between them, to gauge knowledge and development. Understanding what predicts good performance and development will help inform educational practices to improve learning outcomes in the multilingual education context of India. This talk will report preliminary findings from 9- to 11-year-old children from unprivileged backgrounds.
Bilingual and multilingual families in the UK will benefit from insights obtained in this project because they too need information about the best ways to support language and literacy development of their children at home and in school.