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Research School Network: How do young Bangladeshi and Sylheti-speaking children talk and play at home? An update on an ongoing research project. Tania Choudhury, Evidence Lead in Education, and Dr Alex Hodgkiss share an update about this innovative research project

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How do young Bangladeshi and Sylheti-speaking children talk and play at home? An update on an ongoing research project.

Tania Choudhury, Evidence Lead in Education, and Dr Alex Hodgkiss share an update about this innovative research project

In a previous blog post, we introduced an exciting research project currently taking place, led by the University of Oxford, in collaboration with Sheringham Nursery School as part of the East London Research School. 


The project aims to learn more about the home language environment for 3 – 4 year old children who speak English as an additional language. The research focuses specifically on learning more about how Bengali and Sylheti speaking families use language at home.

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Children playing at Sheringham Nursery School

We are also interested in parent’s views about the importance of their heritage language, and how this may impact how family members use their heritage language and English, in different situations at home.

The project includes a novel combination of research tools, including interviews, diaries and home audio recordings. These complementary approaches will provide a broad, comprehensive and rich snapshot of the home language environment. We began working on the project began in January 2021.

Since then, a pilot study has been completed and the first group of parents have taken part in an interview. As with many other research studies, we have faced several challenges in running the project as planned due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This has required us to make a number of changes to the design of the study, including switching to telephone interviews and using courier services in some cases to deliver research materials to families.

Despite these challenges, we are very pleased with the interest in the project shown by families. We are currently beginning to analyse some of the preliminary findings from the first phase of the project, from a small number of families. Preliminary analysis of a small number of semi-structured interviews suggests that:

Bengali/​Sylheti use by parents was often motivated by the desire to strengthen and maintain relationships, and this was sometimes influenced by family members outside of the household (e.g. family members living abroad).

Children were sometimes a motivating factor for parents using English, particularly in cases where children preferred to speak English compared with Bengali/​Sylheti.

Sometimes this was a cause of disappointment for parents, as despite their planned strategy to speak Bengali/​Sylheti, their child responded in English.

Some parents felt that Bengali/​Sylheti were valued in the UK, as the use of interpreters and literature from local authority and health services were available in Bangla.

Ultimately, the English language was the most valued as it is the national language, just as many described Bengali/​Sylheti is more valued in Bangladesh.

We will continue to update these findings as we continue with the project. Bilingual research assistants are also currently working with us to develop an accurate method of recoding information contained within the home recordings. In the coming months, the remaining data collection will be collected, including the home recordings.

We hope that this research project will provide important insights into the language environment of young EAL learners, and that this will in the future will be useful for practitioners in the way they support families.

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