Early Trilingualism in South Tyrol.
A Psycholinguistischen Perspective.

Project head: Barbara Hofer


Are there benefits to being trilingual?

Article 19 of the Autonomy Statute states that teaching in South Tyrol must be provided in the pupils’ native language. A few years ago, however, a small number of Italian primary schools were given the green light to implement bilingual educational programmes (plus English L3). The aim of this study is to examine whether children attending bilingual/trilingual programmes differ in any way from those in regular programmes in terms of their mastery of the L2 and L3 and in terms of their metalinguistic awareness and abilities.

 

Does the acquisition of three languages from an early age affect the child’s development in any significant way?

The present research project aims to ascertain the role of bilingual education and the effects of bilingualism on language learning, in particular on third language learning, and on pupils’ metalinguistic abilities and cross-linguistic sensitivity. The main purpose of this study is to investigate whether early acquisition of three languages enhances pupils’ metalinguistic awareness and abilities and whether knowledge of a second language promotes the acquisition of a third language. We hypothesize that the teaching of three languages from an early age carries positive implications for children’s linguistic, meta-linguistic and cross-linguistic sensitivity.

Preliminary results lead us to conclude that bilingual children show higher levels of metalinguistic awareness and that bi/trilingualism facilitates the learning of additional languages. The findings confirm our hypothesis that early trilingualism exerts positive effects on the pupils’ linguistic and cognitive development. Pupils appear to gain in three ways: they perform higher in their L2, they do better in their L3 and they develop enhanced metalinguistic abilities.

 

Barbara Hofer's PhD thesis presented in South Tyrolean newspaper

The South Tyrolean newspaper Alto Adige published an article on Barbara Hofer's thesis and the school where she carried out her study. To read the article click here.