Heritage and School Language Literacy Development in Migrant Children Interdependence or Independence? Edited by: Raphael Berthele, Amelia Lambelet

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15 Nov 2017
Second Language Acquisition
Multilingual Matters
234 x 156


This book discusses literacy development in heritage language speakers and presents the results of four different quantitative studies that investigate the transfer of literacy skills in bi- and multilingual language development. The empirical studies focus on different populations of pupils, most of them located in various parts of Switzerland, and emphasise the potential residing in shared or transferred resources between their heritage languages and the languages spoken in the region to which their family has immigrated. The goal of all studies was to gain an understanding of the factors, both linguistic and non-linguistic in nature, that contribute to the development of language skills in both the heritage and school languages. Theoretical assumptions are put to the test via hypothesis testing and the generally shared assumptions on bilingual education are questioned based on the data. Furthermore, methodological problems in the investigation of linguistic interdependence are discussed. This book contributes to the scholarly investigation of potential beneficial effects in academic proficiency across languages in migrant children.


This volume is timely and provocative because the scientific evidence on the relationship between heritage languages and second languages reported has important implications for the concept of interdependence. Readers interested in multilingualism and education will not only find rich data but also ground-breaking ideas. The book will certainly stimulate further discussion in the field.

- Jasone Cenoz, University of the Basque Country, UPV/EHU, Spain

This volume addresses unresolved theoretical, methodological and educational issues, arising from Cummins' (1976) seminal interdependence hypothesis. In general, the findings of the carefully conducted empirical studies reported in this volume provide insufficient support for the interdependence hypothesis. The volume therefore forms obligatory reading for all researchers of multilingualism and school education.

- Jan Hulstijn, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This volume brings together findings of studies on the interdependence of languages in migrant children with reflections on theoretical and methodological issues in such research and on educational implications concerning heritage languages. Reflections are thought-provoking and call into question established expectations regarding transfer and interdependence effects. The book provides stimulating food for thought for applied linguists and policy makers.

- Carmen Muñoz, University of Barcelona, Spain

I would say it is a must-read book for anyone who is involved in multilingualism, in research on multilingualism and in school education.

- Multilingual Cafe, February 2019 - Isabelle O'Neill

Author Biography:

Raphael Berthele is Professor of Multilingualism at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He directs the MA programme in multilingualism studies and co-founded the Fribourg Institute of Multilingualism in 2008. His wide-ranging research interests include both cognitive and social aspects of multilingualism.

Amelia Lambelet is Senior Researcher at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Her research interests include individual differences in foreign language learning, receptive multilingualism and heritage speakers’ language development.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional

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