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Metalinguistic Awareness And Cross-linguistic Transfer
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Two out of five of the research questions posed in the study related to metalinguistic awareness and cross-linguistic transfer. These questions are outlined below, along with the general findings and recommendations pertaining to them. What are the differences or similarities between children being educated in an immersion programme (through the medium of L2) and those being educated primarily through the medium of their LI, in terms of the associations those children make between LI, L2 and L3.
Those children being educated in an immersion programme were reported to be more likely than those being educated primarily through LI, to make associations between the LI, L2 and L3. These findings were presented both in teacher observations of pupils and in self-ratings given by pupils. Pupils in immersion programmes were found to be slightly more likely to make associations between LI and L3 than L2 and L3, but were nonetheless likely to do both, according to teacher observations. Some pupils being educated though the medium of LI made associations between LI and L3, but none of them made associations between L2 and L3. Brohy (2001) found a similar result when examining the language-mixing abilities of German/Rumansch bilinguals. In this case, pupils tended to use their L2 when learning the L3, French, as it is typologically closer to that language. With regard to pupils' self-ratings of the level of help L2 affords them in learning L3, children in immersion programmes seemed to be more likely than children in non-immersion programmes to admit that L2 did help them when learning L3, thus indicating the early development of a higher level of metalinguistic awareness in those children.
Does the type of language teacher (factors like language taught, language competency level, qualifications, nationality, and age and time allocation) have an effect on aspects of child language acquisition within the MLPSI, especially in terms of facilitating the development of the metalinguistic awareness of children under their tutelage. The most engaging findings have been found in relation to language taught, as a part of this research question. It has been found that those children learning Spanish have been offered more opportunities for engaging in communicative competence activities, and those Spanish teachers have been shown to be more likely than other teacher types to point out similarities between the TL, English and Irish. Furthermore, children learning Spanish have been found to be more likely than children learning any of the other languages to use the TL outside of class time. Teachers of German were also found to be likely to point out similarities between the TL and English. While a relatively small proportion of language teachers are class teachers and therefore, most probably qualified primary school teachers, it has been shown that many of these class teachers use the TL when teaching parts of other subjects in the curriculum. As stated previously, the use of TL outside of the discrete language lesson has been shown to have a positive effect on learning that language.
This has implications for policy-makers, in terms of language teacher provision in the future. In fact, as of 2008, there are over 460 schools participating in the MLPSI, and all schools recently admitted to the initiative have the capacity within their staff to teach their ML of choice (INTO, 2008, p. 41). The MLPSI has also recommended the use of the Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) approach, an approach which requires immediate investigation in the context of the Republic of Ireland in order to promote its usage among class teachers.
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