English as a Third Language - The teaching of English to bilingual children in Danish primary schools

Trine Hodal

Studenteropgave: Bachelorprojekt


In this report I wish to investigate whether or not bilingual children in Denmark are faced with specific challenges in the Danish primary school when learning English as a third language. My focus is bilingual children whose parents primarily speak a different mother tongue than Danish, which means that the children have learned Danish in institutional settings such as kindergarten and school. I am interested in looking into what specific challenges these children and especially their teachers are faced with in the Danish primary school when learning and teaching English as a third language. In order to explore these issues, I have initially outlined a theoretical landscape in which I draw attention to the most prominent theories available on the subject of language education of bilinguals. One of the most salient views brought forward by the scholars is the fact that bilingual pupils supposedly are better language learners than their monolingual classmates. Because the bilingual pupils have already had the experience of learning one language, they are much more capable of learning an additional one, because they have acquired specific language learning strategies. Another interesting factor to acknowledge is that the issue of culture and the way the children are taught has an immense influence on the way they learn. If they feel that their language of origin is accepted and respected and that their bilingualism is seen as a force, then the language learning process has positive implications and thereby positive outcomes as well. Subsequent to this theoretical section, a somewhat more empirical section follows in which the theoretical findings will be confronted and related to an interview and a report. The interview is conducted with a fifth form schoolteacher who teaches English in a school where approximately 84% of the pupils are bilingual. The report is composed by a group of Danish school teachers and deals with the subject of teaching foreign languages to minority children in Denmark. This empirical material serves as examples of how educators actually deal with the language teaching of bilingual children and to see how much of the theory is actually applicable to real life situations. It is interesting to acknowledge that the teacher from the interview has very different views than those posed by the scholars in the theoretical landscape, whereas the report seems to agree to a large extend with the scholars. However, this is not surprising, because the report is conducted on the basis of a large amount of theoretical writings whereas the interviewed teacher talks merely from her own experience with the pupils. One of the most interesting issues to be drawn from the report and the interview, respectively, is the emphasis both groups give to the lack of adequate materials for teaching bilinguals as well as the lack of appropriate teaching programmes for language teachers dealing with bilinguals. Based on these facts, the conclusion of my report is that much more awareness should be given to the education of language teachers dealing with large amounts of bilinguals. Concrete projects such as creating new textbooks for bilingual pupils and constructing training programmes in which notion is given to the bilingual children’s specific linguistic and cultural situation are initiatives I believe are essential for the language teaching of bilinguals to be optimal.

UddannelserEngelsk, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor
Udgivelsesdato1 jun. 2005
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  • tosprogethed, fremmedsprogsundervisning, sprog og identitet, integration