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  • Author: Roma Chumak-Horbatsch x
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Roma Chumak-Horbatsch

Early bilingualism: children of immigrants in an English-language childcare center

In this study, language views and home language practice of sixteen immigrant parents were documented and related to the dual language behaviors of their young children (ages 1:09 to 3;06) who were enrolled in a Toronto English-language childcare center. De Houwer's (1999) model of early bilingualism was applied to the minority language context and external factors were used to explain the short-lived active bilingualism of the younger children and the passive bilingualism of the preschoolers. Presenting mothers and fathers with separate questionnaires proved to be a valuable methodological tool, which revealed similar language thinking but different home language practice. Immigrant mothers were more committed to their children's L1 development than were fathers, a finding, which supports and extends the parental gender difference noted in earlier work (Gleason, 2005; Lyon, 1991; Lyon & Ellis, 1999). Negative effects of early L2 exposure on minority language children's incomplete L1, reported in earlier studies, were confirmed. A concrete outcome of the present study was the creation mylanguage.ca, a website intended to help immigrant parents understand their children's dual language learning. Even though the study presents a somewhat bleak picture of the continuation of L1, it concludes on an optimistic note, encouraging immigrant fathers to join forces with their L1-committed spouses and to help provide a nurturing L1 environment for their young children.