Language as a medium for inclusion and exclusion: Supporting multilingualism in a Swedish minority language ECEC setting in Finland




language, inclusion, ECEC, children's play


Language awareness and multilingualism in early childhood education has received much attention in recent years. The aim of this article is to shed light on challenges and tensions in supporting multilingualism in a minority language ECEC setting in Finland. Of special interest are situations where children not yet proficient in Swedish or Finnish are included or at risk of being excluded. The study was conducted in Southern Finland where many children attending Swedish ECEC come from bilingual Finnish-Swedish homes. The qualitative data consists of interviews with 74 teachers and staff working in 18 Swedish ECEC. Also, participant observations of children aged 3–5 interacting with peers were conducted. The results show that children are aware of language differences and use language as a means for inclusion and exclusion of peers during play. The high degree of freedom in children’s free play, without the participation of adults, makes it difficult for staff to create a common praxis or linguistic strategies. Furthermore, the results indicate that ECEC staff need more guidelines on how to actively support the children’s development of Swedish while supporting children’s bilingualism or multilingualism.


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