Swedish-English preschool as a site for the collaborative discovery of bilingual meanings





bilingualism, vocabulary, preschool, interaction


This paper examines spontaneous conversations about word meaning in a bilingual preschool in Sweden. This qualitative empirical study is grounded in an ethnomethodological theoretical framework and contributes to research on multilingualism by using a sociocultural lens to examine mundane linguistic experiences of very young children who learn to speak in more than one language. The data comprise video-recordings of naturally occurring interactions among teachers and children in a Swedish-English preschool with a one teacher-one language policy. The data were collected during ethnographic fieldwork in an urban area in Sweden. Approached with multimodal interactional analysis, the data draw attention to teachers’ everyday didactics, including their professional strategies for initiating spontaneous vocabulary work and orchestrating multiparty engagement in the collaborative discovery of meaning, and children’s participation. The analysis discusses strategies for providing word definitions and demonstrates mundane institutional contexts outside of the classroom setting where such interactions were possible. Both teachers and children engaged in vocabulary exploration by using words in a situated, locally meaningful way. The study highlights that the teachers followed the preschool’s language policy and embodied monolingual identities, while orienting to children as multilingual learners and supporting their language development.


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