About the project

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

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.


About us

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

  • 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



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

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. Retrieved from http://ojs.tsv.fi/index.php/afinlavk/article/view/49366

Bergroth, M. (2016). Kaksikielisten lasten kielipoliittinen toimijuus päiväkodissa ja kotona. Kieli, koulutus ja yhteiskunta – lokakuu 2016. http://www.kieliverkosto.fi/article/kaksikielisten-lasten-kielipoliittinen-toimijuus-paivakodissa-ja-kotona/

Bergroth, M. (2016). Reforming the national core curriculum for bilingual education in Finland. Journal of Immersion and Content-Based Language Education, 4 (1), 86-107. doi:10.1075/jicb.4.1.04ber Retrieved from https://jyx.jyu.fi/dspace/handle/123456789/49091

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

Bergroth, M. & Palviainen, Å. (2016). 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.

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). Att utveckla en Jyväskyläidentitet: Undervisning på svenska i en finskdominerad miljö. Kieli, koulutus ja yhteiskunta. Kieliverkoston verkkolehti., 18.10.2013 (Marraskuu). Retrieved from http://www.kieliverkosto.fi/article/att-utveckla-en-jyvaskylaidentitet-undervisning-pa-svenska-i-en-finskdominerad-miljo/

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

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