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Valeria Tonioli

General field of research

Linguistic studies

Project by

Fabio Caon, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia

  • Abstract
  • There are 36,208 foreign citizens living in Venice, 16.5% of whom are of Bengali origin. In this context, 85% of the children who use neuropsychiatric services are of foreign origin, and 75% of them come from Bangladesh. At the same time, ongoing research shows the need to systematically address the issue of disability in children of foreign origin: the neuropsychiatry department of the Local Health Authority (AULSS3) is continuously receiving requests to assess suspected communication disorders – in the areas of language, phonetics and phonology, fluency, social and pragmatic communication (DSM-5, APA, 2013). Children of foreign origin are further identified by schools and teachers for learning difficulties with L2.

    To confirm the studies on this topic (see Cummins, 1989), a first local survey (Tonioli, 2018, forthcoming) shows that delays in language acquisition are due to reduced exposure to oral L1 language input (mother tongue). Within the schools themselves, questions were raised about the preparation of teachers to deal with such situations, given the current lack of a consistent amount of research providing tools and operational guidelines (Bonifacci, 2016; Lepore, 2011). According to Roch (2017), it is essential to increase children’s opportunities for linguistic stimulation. Recent studies show that “the peculiarity of language development in bilingual children is that the acquisition of two language codes must take place in the same time frame and with the same number of resources as in monolingual language development” (Roch, 2017). Hart and Risley (2003) also show that families of migrants with low socio-economic status provide lower amounts of linguistic stimuli to their children, and of lower quality, with negative consequences on “the pace of language development and school success in terms of reading, comprehension and writing skills”. Starting from those considerations a qualitative and explorative research has been conducted. The objectives were the following:

    1. investigating cultural representation of disability in the Bangladeshi community;
    2. developing L2 lessons inside pre-school services;
    3. investigating the linguistic repertoires of the children involved in the study;
    4. investigating the types of input that these children receive at home in different languages;
    5. observing the types of linguistic interactions, the children have at home and at school;
    6. investigating teachers’, parents’ and social workers’ cultural and personal representations of multilingual and second language education of children with migrant background involved in the project.
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