Biliteracy and Identity of Turkish-speaking children and adolescents in France

Mehmet-Ali AKINCI

Laboratoire Dynamique Du Langage (UMR 5596 CNRS - Université Lumière Lyon2), France

WS140: Multilingualism and identities across Contexts: Turkish-speaking Youth in Europe

Bilingualism cannot be examined solely in relation to language itself, but must always be viewed within the wider societal context and with a specific understanding of the particular circumstances of the language communities in question (Hamers & Blanc 1983; Baker 2001). Besides, in every society literacy carries a power status and is perceived as enhancing economic, social and political opportunities for the individual (Street, 1993, Datta, 2000). Central to our investigation, our model is Hornberger’s (1989) interrelated continua of biliterate development in individuals. This model of bilingualism usefully highlights the various interconnections between bilingualism and biliteracy. The strength of this model is its consideration of the multiple relationships between different types of bilinguals, and their language use, as a part of a continuum rather than as a dichotomy. Three of her continua: the reception-production continuum, the oral language-written language continuum and the L1-L2 continuum provide a framework for our characterization of the multilingual competences of the bilinguals investigated.

This study derived from a research project on the development of text production abilities as a critical indicator of literacy across and beyond school ages among Turkish French bilingual and Turkish and French monolingual children, teenagers and adults. In the framework of this project, we elaborated a detailed and individually tailored background and literacy related questionnaire. The purpose of our paper is to present the results of this questionnaire which constitute a critical source of information on demographic variables and literacy-related activities in and outside subjects’ homes. The questionnaire included three sections on: background characteristics (demographic information), language use-choice (only for bilinguals), and literacy-related activities (watching TV, listening radio, using computer, reading newspapers and journals, reading books, using materials for homework, writing activities and extra-curricular activities). A total of 335 participants in four age groups (10-11 years-old students from grade school, 12-13 years-old from junior school, 15-16 years-old from high school and students from university) for each population (ie. Turkish French bilinguals and French (low SES) and Turkish (low SES and high SES) monolinguals) were asked to fill out the questionnaire. The data allowed us to answer the following questions:

1. What kind of literacy experiences do bilingual children have outside school?

2. What is the relationship between language, culture and literacy?

3. What are the characteristics of these bilinguals, their environments, the contexts in which they receive instruction, and the nature of this instruction with regard to reading and writing activities?

4. What resources do they access, what literacy practices do they engage in on their own?

On the basis of descriptive statistics, analyses yielded significant differences with regard to reading and writing activities. These findings aim to help in the development of social structures and pedagogical approaches targeted at improving bilinguals’ motivation to engage in conventional literacy activities, thus contributing to their success beyond schooling.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Multilingualism and identities across Contexts: Turkish-speaking Youth in Europe
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 07