Child2ling - Language conceptions and practices in bilingual early childhood

About the project

The project “Language conceptions and practices in bilingual early childhood. Swedish-Finnish bilingual children in Swedish medium preschools in Finland” (”Språkliga uppfattningar och praktiker kring tvåspråkiga småbarn. Svensk/finska tvåspråkiga barn vid svenskspråkiga daghem  i Finland”) was financed by the Academy of Finland 2013-2017 and ended on Aug 31st 2017.

The research was carried out against the backdrop of Finland by Constitution being a bilingual country and with a rapidly growing number of children in Finland who come from families where one of the parents speaks Swedish and the other one Finnish. Finland has 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. Bilingual Finnish-Swedish 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. The focus in the project was to capture language ideologies surrounding and affecting the children and their families in their daily lives, to identify language practices and crucial actors on different levels, as well as to listen to the children's own voices.

The goal is to provide a deeper understanding of how conceptions of language, bilingualism and bilingual development are manifested and negotiated in communicative practice, policy documents, media debates, Finnish-Swedish bilingual children and their families, and Swedish-medium preschools in three different geographical sites in Finland.

During the course of the project, we zoomed in 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 varied as did the proportions of children from bilingual homes (in relation to monolingual Swedish-speaking homes). We collected a vast amount of ethnographic data such as fieldwork observations, video- and audio-recordings and interviews with 3- to 5-year-old bilingual children to get to know how they use and think about language(s). We also interviewed and observed staff and visited the homes of bilingual children and the families made video-recordings of family interactions at home. As part of the project, we followed public media and collected articles and news concerning language ideologies, debates and the role of Swedish in bilingual Finland and policy documents.


Structured interviews with parents (N=18); structured interviews with preschool staff (teachers, heads) (N=10); and research games with children (N=9)


15 h


Video recordings of children at preschool and at home; four times, at six month intervals (N=9; ages 3-6 years)

Field notes, artifacts


112 h

60 visits

Mass media

Swedish-language (n=6) and Finnish-language (n=3) newspapers; web news 


approx. 1,200 contributions

Policy documents

Legal documents; national and local curricula



Nexus analysis (Scollon and Scollon 2004) was used as a discourse analytical framework to unpack the complexities to gain a better understanding of bilingualism and its role, possibilities and challenges within institutions, families and Finland as a society.

Activities and Results dissemination

The results have been disseminated at international and national conferences and seminars, shared with staff, parents and stakeholders and presented in a number of academic publications (listed below). We have collaborated across national borders and research contexts and published two special issues during the project time:

  • Twenty-first-century preschool bilingual education: facing advantages and challenges in cross-cultural contexts. Special Issue. Guest editors: Mila Schwartz & Åsa Palviainen. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, Volume 19, Issue 4 (August 2016).
  • Young children as language policy-makers: studies of interaction in preschools in Finland and Sweden. Special Issue. Guest editors: Sally Boyd & Leena Huss. Multilingua, Volume 36, Issue 4 (July 2017).

We have also run two international workshops (2014 and 2017) intended for doctoral students and post doc researchers. The most recent one was The 2nd Symposium of Language Policy in the Family, the Preschool and the School. Heading for the future! University of Jyväskylä, April 7-8, 2017


Almér, E. (2015). Where communication flows, languages swim freely : developing fieldwork methods for investigating preschool children's language beliefs. In T. Jakonen, J. Jalkanen, T. Paakkinen, & M. Suni (Eds.),Kielen oppimisen virtauksia. Flows of langugage learning (pp. 159-171). Suomen soveltavan kielitieteen yhdistyksen julkaisuja, 73. Jyväskylä, Finland: Suomen soveltavan kielitieteen yhdistys. Retrieved from http://ojs.tsv.fi/index.php/afinlavk/article/view/49320

Almér, E. (2017). Children’s beliefs about bilingualism and language use as expressed in child-adult conversations. Multilingua, 36(4), 401–424. doi 10.1515/multi-2016-0022

Bergroth, M. (2015). Kaksisuuntaista kieleen sosiaalistumista kaksikielisissä perheissä. In T. Jakonen, J. Jalkanen, T. Paakkinen, & M. Suni (Eds.), Kielen oppimisen virtauksia. Flows of langugage learning (pp. 126-141). Suomen soveltavan kielitieteen yhdistyksen julkaisuja, 73. Jyväskylä, Finland: Suomen soveltavan kielitieteen yhdistys.

Bergroth, M. (2016a). Kaksikielisten lasten kielipoliittinen toimijuus päiväkodissa ja kotona. Kieli, koulutus ja yhteiskunta – lokakuu 2016.

Bergroth, M. (2016b). Reforming the national core curriculum for bilingual education in Finland. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 4 (1), 86-107.  Retrievable from https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/handle/123456789/49091

Bergroth, M. (2016c). Mieluummin kurabyxor kuin galonbyxor Tvåspråkiga familjer och språk i vardagen. In J. Kolu et al. (Eds.) Svenskan i Finland 16 (pp. 9-24). Jyväskylä Studies in Humanities 298. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä. 

Bergroth, M. (2017) Lek som handling i nexus för ett tvåspråkigt barn, interaktion och diskurser. Nordisk tidsskrift for andrespråksforskning, 2/2017, 96-113. Retrievable from: https://www.idunn.no/nordand/2017/02/lek_som_handling_i_nexus_fr_ett_tvaaspraakigt_barn_interakt

Bergroth, M & Palviainen, Å. (2016a). Språkpolicy vid svenskspråkiga daghem i Finland: Tvåspråkiga barns handlingar och agens, Folkmålsstudier 54, 9-35.

Bergroth, M. & Palviainen, Å. (2016b). The early childhood education and care partnership for bilingualism in minority language schooling: collaboration between bilingual families and pedagogical practitioners,International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 19:6, pp 649-667, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2016.1184614. Retrievable from: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/ywqAbyyBaGiB5jFwbtz7/full 

Bergroth, M. & Palviainen, Å. (2017). Bilingual children as policy agents: Language policy and education policy in minority language medium Early Childhood Education and Care. Multilingua 2017; 36(4): 375–399. DOI 10.1515/multi-2016-0026 

Boyd, S. & Palviainen, Å. (2015). Building Walls or Bridges? A Language Ideological Debate About Bilingual Schools in Finland. In: M. Halonen, P. Ihalainen & T. Saarinen Language Policies in Finland and Sweden. Interdisciplinary and Multi-sited Comparisons.Bristol: Multilingual Matters, pp. 57–89.

Palviainen, Å. (2013). National identity and a transnational space: The strength of tradition in a time of change. Sociolinguistica 27: 1-18.

Palviainen, Å. & Bergroth, M. (2018) Parental discourses of language ideology and linguistic identity in multilingual Finland. International Journal of Multilingualism [online first]. DOI 10.1080/14790718.2018.1477108

Palviainen, Å. & Boyd, S. (2013) Unity in discourse, diversity in practice. The one-person one-language policy in bilingual families. In M. Schwartz & A. Verschik (red.) Successful family language policy: parents, children and educators in interaction. Vol7. Series Multilingual Education. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. http://link.springer.com/book/10.1007%2F978-94-007-7753-8

Palviainen, Å., Protassova, E, Mård-Miettinen, K. & Schwartz, M. (2016). Two languages in the air: a cross-cultural comparison of preschool teachers’ reflections on their flexible bilingual practices, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 19:6, pp 614-630, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2016.1184615 Retrievable from: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/F8xy5qd7jIcienmtEYq8/full 

Palviainen, Å. & Sopanen, P. (2017). Ödesfrågor för Svenskfinland? Två tidningsdebatter från hösten 2015. In A. Sköldberg et al (eds.) Svenskans beskrivning 35, Förhandlingar vid trettiofemte sammankomsten Göteborg 11–13 maj 2016. Pp. 275–286. Retrievable from https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/52211/1/gupea_2077_52211_1.pdf

Schwartz, M. (Ed.). (submitted). Twenty-first century bilingual preschool education: Child's, teachers', and parents' agencies in interaction.Series Multilingual Education. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Schwartz, M. (2017). Rationalization of First Language First model of bilingual development and education: A case of Russian as a Heritage Language in Israel. In O. Kagan, M. Carreira, & C. Chik (Eds.), A Handbook on Heritage Language Education: From Innovation to Program Building. NY: Routledge.

Schwartz, M., & Gorbatt, N. (2016). "Why do we know Hebrew and they do not know Arabic?" Children's meta-linguistic talk in bilingual preschool. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 19 (6), 668-688.

Schwartz, M. & Palviainen, Å. (2016). Twenty-first-century preschool bilingual education: facing advantages and challenges in cross-cultural contexts, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 19:6, pp 603-613, DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2016.1184616 Retrievable from: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/NabZTDrxxUZXGY7DiHkn/full 

Tarnanen, M. & Palviainen, Å. (2018) Finnish teachers as policy agents in a changing society. Language and Education [online first]. DOI 10.1080/09500782.2018.1490747

About us

The research project has been based at Department of Language and Communication Studies (Swedish) at the University of Jyväskylä but the research group have also included researchers from Sweden and Israel.

  • Elin Almér (Post Doc 2014-15; 2017), PhD, University of Jyväskylä and University West
  • Mari Bergroth (Post Doc 2014-17), PhD, University of Jyväskylä; now at Åbo Akademi University
  • Sally Boyd, Professor em., University of Gothenburg
  • Leena Huss, Professor em., University of Uppsala
  • Åsa Palviainen (Project leader), Professor of Swedish, University of Jyväskylä
  • Mila Schwartz, Professor, Oranim Academic College of Education in Haifa
  • Pauliina Sopanen (Research assistant), MA, University of Jyväskylä