Nurturing Australia’s little multilingual minds: A heritage and second language extension program for children
Young families are often busy and lack community support to transmit and maintain their Heritage Language to their young children. Little Multilingual Minds (LMM) has been created in response to the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse families. LMM is a project that enhances and extends children’s Heritage Language (HL) input and skills during early childhood. LMM also support families with children learning a second language other than English.
Our philosophy centres around the notion that children learn and develop their language(s) best through play and enriching social activities. We aim to strengthen children’s self-esteem and self-identity through developing their HL in meaningful social activities.
LMM can be adjusted to children’s geographical location, age, interests, and proficiency levels. The program has been designed to be as flexible as possible to accommodate the diverse needs and interests of as many cultural groups as possible. The activities are interactive, child-centred, and play-based, with a focus on active tasks resulting in happy children who are eager to learn!
LMM works partnering with a diverse range of already established early education, preschool and after school care settings, facilitating the tools and knowledge necessary to optimally support diverse language families. Therefore, the LMM model is practical and convenient for families, as there is no need to transport children to a different location to participate in our extension sessions. We are also working on making our program available online.
The LMM program has piloted and implemented data collection protocols with the collaboration of our first educational partner. Our data collection design and testing procedures, include a within-participants pre and post design. Educational elicitation techniques are used alongside psycholinguistic tasks. These include storytelling, vocabulary size, word learning, recognition and production tasks, as well as general cognition tasks (e.g. memory, executive functions). Audio-visual tools and modern equipment aid in optimal data collection.
LMM is funded by Professor Escudero’s Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant (LP210300631): "Little Multilingual Minds: Investing in the future of multilingual Australia", ARC Future Fellowship (FT160100514): “Enhancing language learning with auditory training and interaction” and previously by the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (CoEDL, CE140100041) where Professor Escudero was Chief Investigator. LMM would also like to acknowledge our community partners: Amigoss Spanish Bilingual Childcare, Cherry Crescent Preschool, VietSpeak, and Double Bay Public School.