In this chapter, we adopt the term emergent bilingual (EB) to more accurately index and designate those whose bilingualism is still emerging. In spite of a significant increase in recent asset-based national policy statements aimed at recognizing the language diversity of young children, much of the language research on emergent bilinguals still emanates from a deficit perspective. Nonetheless, we advance the hypothesis that the reasons for lower performance are less likely to be due to learner-based deficits and more likely to be due to policy, programmatic, and instructional factors. We also suggest that a reconceptualizing of traditional research categories is needed since these categories are socially constructed and descriptive, not theoretical or explanatory of language learning. Similarly, as scholars have identified a “special education symbolism” that is evoked about individuals with various “dis/ability” labels that marginalize them, we suspect there is also an emergent bilingual symbolism or mindset that is evoked about young multi-language learners in schools or research settings, creating an overall negative ideology about their performance outcomes. Finally, we advocate for a “contrapuntal” theoretical approach for studying young emergent bilinguals in hopes of generating improved research designs that result in deeper insights into children’s language learning abilities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)