This multi-site longitudinal study aims to address the gap in literature regarding Arabic-speaking refugee children by focusing on factors that contribute to successes and challenges in language and literacy development in both the second language, English, and the first language, Arabic. The research study methods align with a project carried out in Germany. This cross-cultural collaboration allows for the similarities policy makers and educators face, as well as the different social and educational contexts, to create comparable ways of working with refugee populations.
The following research questions are being addressed:
- What are the changes in children’s English (L2) and Arabic (L1) language and literacy abilities over the two-year project?
- What child (e.g., cognitive abilities, age of arrival, schooling) and family (e.g., parental education, home activities) factors underlie individual differences in L1 and L2 development?
- To what extent is there evidence for interdependence between the L1 and L2 in development?
- What is the association between socio-emotional well-being and language and literacy skills?
Research is being carried out in three Canadian cities (Edmonton, Toronto, and Waterloo) with 37 children, aged 6-12 years old, from Syrian refugee families. Methods included a battery of language and literacy measures, a mix of standardized and experimental tests, as well as in-depth parent questionnaires about family demographics, the home language and literacy environment, and parents’ and children’s socioeconomic wellbeing.
This is an on-going longitudinal project, the first year of the study focused on two tasks: the development of experimental measures and identification of standardized measures that were parallel in English and Arabic and recruitment and testing for the first round of data processing. In Edmonton, the study developed a parent questionnaire on home language and literacy environment (ALEQ-4) and a sentence repetition task in Arabic and English to measure grammatical development.