DYME SEMSprachEntwicklungsbeobachtung Mehrsprachig

The Observation of Multilingual Development in Children

Research in the field of multilingualism on an individual and social level is an important part of applied linguistics. Innovatively DyME uses a multilingual and holistic research approach: Rather than looking at the development of just one language, as it had been done previous studies, we take all languages of each individual into account.

For a long time research had handled people speaking more than one language as multiple monolingual people in one. However, that has changed. New research models, such as the Dynamic Model of Multilingualism (DMM; Herdina & Jessner 2002; Jessner 2006) assume that multilingual people have a big, complex and dynamic language(s) system, which again consist of several subsystems (e.g. single language systems). These subsystems are connected with each other and interdependent subsequently influencing each other.

Multilingual language development and multicompetence in children

Hence, bi- or multilingual people cannot be compared with monolingual people. This is due to the fact, that the interaction of each language system results in new (emerging) features, which are non-existent or less developed in monolinguals. This includes, for instance, divergent or creative thinking, a greater metalinguistic awareness and greater sensitivity concerning communication needs respectively more divers communications strategies (see e.g. Cenoz 2003,; Bialystok 1991, 2001, 2009). Such capabilities are beneficial when it comes to accomplishing new tasks or learning other languages. The main research interest of the DyME-group is multilingual awareness in particular.

There are numerous tests and instruments for observing language development and assessing language proficiency however, most of these instruments do not meet the needs of multilingual children. This is primarily due to the fact that they are designed for monolinguals. Regarding the monitoring of multilingual children's language development, it is important to go beyond the mere testing of a single language and take into consideration the multilingual system with all its complexity.

The research project in Nenzing (Vorarlberg, Austria)

The DyME-SEM project investigates English as a bridge-language in Kindergarten. In the first pilot year approximately 40 children will be tested; one half of them growing up bi- or multilingually. The aim is to observe the children's language development in all their respective languages (German, Turkish, English, etc.) in different contexts. It is designed to show multilingual children's development of cognitive and linguistic skills, as well as the emerging skills.

The analysis of the results advice on optimising targeted language support.

Here you find the project's research results (Article in the municipal newspaper)



Bialystok, E. (1991). Metalinguistic dimensions of bilingual language proficiency. In E. Bialystok (ed.). Language processing in bilingual children. Cambridge: CUP, 113-140.

Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development. Cambridge: CUP.

Bialystok, E. (2009). Bilingualism: The good, the bad, and the indifferent. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 12, 3-11.

Cenoz, J. (2003). The additive effect of bilingualism on third language acquisition. International Journal of Bilingualism 7, 71-88.

Herdina, P & Jessner, U. (2002). A Dynamic Model of Multilingualism. Perspectives of Change in Psycholinguistics. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Jessner, U. (2006) Linguistic Awareness in Multilinguals: English as a Third Language. Edinburgh: Edingburgh UP.