Multilingual Families during the Pandemic Survey
The Activities > Partners Pages
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has recently forced the UK government to take exceptional measures that include the closure of all schools from 23rd March 2020 until further notice. School closures and the social distancing measures that have been implemented at the same time have forced millions of families to the confines of their own homes for the foreseeable future. At the time of writing the government is anticipating that the current lockdown is likely to last at least until June 2020, and social distancing measures until October 2020.
According to the 2019 School Census, 20% of primary school children and 16% of secondary school children in England have English as an additional language and therefore live in multilingual households. For multilingual families a protracted period of isolation will affect patterns of language exposure and use not only in English, but also in the other language(s) spoken by adults and children at home. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of hours spent in childcare or at school, and in extracurricular school activities, accounted for at least 30% of children’s time. For children who attend mainstream English-medium childcare settings and schools – and who are in the majority of the population in England – daily exposure to English is likely to be significantly affected over the lockdown period. Depending on whether any members of their household speak English to them, this means that children’s exposure and use of English may be drastically reduced while exposure to their other home language(s) would increase. These likely changes may affect the implicit or explicit family language policy that governed patterns of language use prior to the implementation of the lockdown.
Parents – and to some extent children’s - beliefs about language and bilingualism shape language practices in the home, and these beliefs and practices may change in the face of severe disruption to patterns of social interaction over a protracted period of time.
Aim of the project
To investigate how beliefs and practices of language use in multilingual households in England will change during and after the social distancing measures imposed by the UK government during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We will use an online survey to ask parents in multilingual households about their beliefs and current practices. The survey will be repeated three times over the course of 12 months. We are planning to launch the survey in April 2020, repeat it at the end of social distancing measures – likely in 6 months -time – and again in April 2021.