MARCS Insight Series: Nurturing Little Multilingual Minds in Australia and the world

Event Name MARCS Insight Series: Nurturing Little Multilingual Minds in Australia and the world
Start Date 5th Sep 2023 11:00 am
End Date 5th Sep 2023 12:00 pm
Duration 1 hour

MARCS INSIGHTS SERIES – Tuesdays at 11am

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MARCS Insights 2023.09.05 Paola


Professor Paola Escudero Neyra

Interest Group

Speech and Language


Research program motivation, presentation, evaluation and more.

Worldwide most children are born in multilingual households. Even in places where monolingualism is prevalent (e.g., Australia), about a third of children grow up listening and speaking languages other than the societal language. Speaking and passing on heritage or home languages (HLs) is crucial to mental health and wellbeing, academic achievement, social inclusion, cultural diversity, community cohesion, economic success, and networking opportunities. However, most countries do not harvest the significant gains that are to be made from speaking more than one language and from maintaining HLs, mainly because formal education is characterised by a monolingual mindset. After going through why and how I decided to turn my language learning expertise into an applied/translational research program, I will present my solution for the HL maintenance and language learning dilemma in Australia and the world.

Little Multilingual Minds (LMM) is a research program that partners with universities, multilingual communities, early childhood centres and primary schools to offer a tailor-made and co-designed language exposure program. The main aim is to encourage and elicit children’s HL and L2 speech in a naturalistic, wholistic, play-based manner. The program we offered our first partner, a bilingual childcare centre in Sydney, aimed at solving the HL attrition problems expressed by parents, educators, and directors. These problems included children’s refusal to speak their HL at home and their rapid shift to speaking only English upon starting primary school. We evaluated the program’s efficacy with psycholinguistic tasks for children’s competence in both languages and with learner profiles and assessments conducted after LMM sessions. Results demonstrate that LMM aligns well with early learning and primary school educational principles and that it successfully offsets monolingualism through maintaining/enhancing children’s HL/L2 proficiency. Finally, I will present future directions for the LMM research program and its potential to become a model for enabling and nurturing multilingualism in early childhood and primary education in Australia and the world.


Level 4 Seminar Room, Innovation Quarter, 160 Hawkesbury Road, Sydney, NSW 2145, Australia

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