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Finland is by Constitution a bilingual country. This means, among other things, that there is a parallel educational system, one Finnish-medium and one Swedish-medium, which provides education in either of the two languages all the way from early childhood education and care to the university level. A rapidly growing number of children in Finland today come from families where one of the parents speaks Swedish and the other one Finnish. These families often choose monolingual Swedish medium daycare for their children, in order to support language development in the language that is less spoken in the societal environment. Considering the fact that many preschool-aged children are bilingual, surprisingly little research has been carried out about them in a Finnish context.

In the project, we focus on three Swedish-medium daycare classrooms at three different geographical sites in Finland. In these sites, the patterns of language dominance in the surrounding community vary as do the proportions of children from bilingual homes (in relation to monolingual Swedish-speaking homes). Over a period of two years, we collect data (observations, video- and audiorecordings and interviews) with 3- to 5-year-old bilingual children to get to know how they use and think about language(s). We also interview and observe staff and visit the homes of bilingual children. In addition to the fieldwork, we do discourse analysis on ongoing societal language debates and policy documents.

The project thus collects data from a number of different levels in order to find out which language conceptions and practices are surrounding and affecting these bilingual children. The project uses nexus analysis (Scollon and Scollon 2004) as a discourse analytical tool to unpack this complexity to gain a better understanding of bilingualism and its role, possibilities and challenges within institutions, families and Finland as a society.

Participating researchers at University West

Elin Almér

About us

The research project is based at the Department of Languages (Swedish) at the University of Jyväskylä but the research group also includes researchers from Sweden and Israel.

Other reserachers

  • Åsa Palviainen (Project leader) Professor of Swedish, Department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä
  • Mari Bergroth (Post Doc), Phd, Department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä. 
  • Elin Almér (Post Doc), Phd, Department of Languages, University of Jyväskylä (2014-2015; 2017). 
  • Sally Boyd, Professor em., University of Gothenburg
  • Leena Huss, Professor em., The Hugo Valentin Centre, Uppsala university
  • Mila Schwartz, Professor, Bilingualism and Bilingual Education at Oranim Academic College of Education in Haifa, Israel

Research Area

  • Barn- och ungdomsvetenskap

Research environment / Institution

  • Barn och unga
  • Institutionen för individ och samhälle

Project leader

Participants University West

Research Partner

  • Jyväskylä universitet
  • Duke University

Research funding

  • Finlands akademi

Project time

2013 - 2017