Bilingual families in lockdown [Transcript]

January 14, 2022

Sharon Unsworth:
Welcome to Kletsheads, the podcast about bilingual children. My name is Sharon Unsworth, linguist at the University in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and mother of two bilingual children. Covid-19, lockdown, home schooling. If you’re sick of hearing these three words, then I’m afraid this extra episode of Kletsheads is not for you, because today we’re going to be talking about the impact of the pandemic on bilingual families. We’ll talk about how bilingual families have been tackling home schooling and about the ups and downs of bilingual parenting during this difficult period. Keep listening to find out more.

Sharon Unsworth: It’s early 2021 and many countries around the world are still in a strict lockdown. For many families, this means that our homes are not only the place where we eat, play and sleep, but also the place where many grown ups now have to work whilst either keeping their young children entertained or supervising older children’s schoolwork. And I think that many parents would agree that home schooling and home office, as the Germans call it, are not necessarily perfect companions. And it’s not just a matter of the time spent on home schooling, it’s also sometimes really hard. How does Microsoft Teams work exactly? Did the teacher really say that you were allowed to skip that exercise? And no, I don’t know either how you divide 540 by 15. And I’m sorry, I can’t explain it in exactly the same way as your teacher told you. Challenging times for many of us then, and I haven’t even mentioned the question of whether there’s a laptop or a tablet available for everyone, whether there’s enough room in the house for everyone to be able to work in a quiet space, or how we’re all supposed to manage living in each other’s pockets day in, day out. These are challenges that apply to all families, regardless of how many languages and what languages are spoken in the home. But bilingual families may also face additional challenges. How do you supervise your child with home schooling if you’re only just learning the school language yourself? If you’re a teacher, how can you support parents with limited proficiency in the school language? And how can you best support your child’s homeschooling if you’re capable of speaking the school language but normally never do? Should you have to switch to the school language? So Dutch in our case here in the Netherlands, or is it OK to carry on using your native language? These are all questions that I’ve been asked over the past few weeks and months. And so I figured it was high time to devote an episode of Kletsheads to the impacts of the lockdown on bilingual families. Now, here in the Netherlands, the primary schools have actually just reopened, but secondary schools are still teaching online. And children with family members who are shielding or who are shielding themselves, of course, have to stay at home. In many other places around the world, all schools remain closed, and in many countries, this also holds for preschools or for childcare centres too. What you’re about to hear is a combination of experiences from parents and teachers where possible combined with insights from scientific research. Of course, not much research has actually been done specifically on the impact of the pandemic on the language development of bilingual children. But at the end, I’ll tell you a little bit about the first results from a study carried out in the UK and Ireland and about a similar study that we’re setting up here in the Netherlands. More about that later. We start with the experiences of families here in the Netherlands who don’t speak Dutch at home, either because the parents can’t speak Dutch or because they normally speak another language with their children. For this, I spoke to Tessa Mearns, researcher, teacher and coordinator of the World Teachers Programme at the Teacher Training Institute at Leiden University. As you’ll hear, Tessa is also a mother of two bilingual children. And I started by asking her what her family’s experience had been of the lockdown.

Tessa Mearns: Yeah. So I’ve got two little girls ages five and eight. So they’re primary school age, we speak English in the home and Dutch outside of the home, we are a completely English language family at home. Well, the challenges that we’ve come up against of being, like you said, these two different sort of categories. One is that we think, what we worry a little bit about is the amount of Dutch that our girls are coming into contact with in the home or the lack of Dutch that they’re coming into contact with in the home. They don’t have, you know, as we know about multilingual children, it’s a great asset to be multilingual, but it’s important, if the language is going to be strong, that we get enough exposure to and quality exposure to the different languages. And, you know, normally Dutch is taken care of in the school and now, suddenly, that whole element of that, what you would call input in Dutch is practically gone, certainly in terms of listening to Dutch and speaking Dutch themselves as well. They’re not practising the languages much themselves. And that’s something that’s made us realise that we are a family that in that sense could struggle more and in this setting. Something I noticed in my oldest daughter was that in the first lookdown, she wanted to read more English during the lockdown, I think maybe because there was so much more English around her, she started reading a lot in English, which at first we thought was great. We thought “Great, she’s going to practice English.” But then her Dutch spelling suddenly went downhill. She went to a back to school and she had a spelling test and was writing things and suddenly spelling… She was always going quite strong and that was becoming a sort of problematic issue. So this lockdown actually sort of made sure we’re getting plenty of Dutch books. Our library has a pickup service where we can go and pick up a packet, a mystery packet of books for a certain age group. And so she’s reading in Dutch rather than in English at the moment.

Sharon Unsworth: I’m guessing in the meantime between the two lockdowns we’ve had in the Netherlands, then presumably her spelling picked up a bit in between, or is it something that we greatly concerned about?

Tessa Mearns: I think it will pick up again. I’m not concerned about it in the long run, but it is something that she needs to focus on, you know. There can be all different kinds of things that play a role in that, but that was definitely one of the things that made us think, “Well, we do have to be careful that they’re getting enough exposure to Dutch.” I mean, that was in terms of written Dutch, but also in terms of speaking. So that’s something that we’ve definitely noticed. In terms of the speaking, which for us isn’t a source of concern but I’ve heard from other parents that they have noticed their children’s spoken Dutch also declining when they’re at home more and that they’re becoming a little bit concerned about that. And that I also heard from some parents that they feel even, again similar to my daughter’s spelling, that after the first lockdown, they did go back to school and then they still felt that even after that time, when they’d gone back to school, that it was still behind where it should have been at that point. I know there’s been no research into this at the moment, but it is something I’ve been hearing anecdotally from people.

Sharon Unsworth: Yeah, yeah. And I think, you know, just to be completely fair, of course, bilingual children who maybe don’t have as much or any contact with the Dutch at home are going to be getting less input. And in that sense, this will have an impact on skills like spelling. But of course, the lack of input might hold for all the children as well, monolingual children, even if they are in a Dutch-speaking household. If they’re not getting the support that they need, is also going to be an impact.

Tessa Mearns: Yeah, yeah. I can well imagine that too. That’s something that lots of parents across the world are concerned about.

Sharon Unsworth: And what else have you been hearing from parents about how they’ve been approaching this then?

Tessa Mearns: In terms of dealing with, you know, their own worries about their children’s language. Like I said, we have certain things that we’ve been trying to do and other parents, I’ve heard, had some great ideas about ways that they can try and substitute that Dutch input a bit in the home. Something that we’ve done at one point is that we’ve organised a couple of online little parties for our kids so that they can, even if they don’t go out and play with other kids at the playpark, because not all families are really that comfortable with kids playing together, even though in the Netherlands is allowed for children to play together. A lot of families aren’t doing that. But we can you can still have a little Zoom party or a Google Meet party. The kids are so used to using these online platforms now that you can organise it with one friend or with a couple of friends that they get together and then they can speak to each other. And speaking to peers in the school language. This is giving them the opportunity to see their friends as well and to socialize and to use the language for enjoyment and not just for schools, that it’s not just a school language for them.

Sharon Unsworth: Yeah, I don’t know about that. But yeah, it’s true. If you only use it for school and it can be a bit of a nag in way. Right. But you know, not all kids, even if they enjoy school, they don’t necessarily enjoy having school with mum and dad.

Tessa Mearns: Yeah, exactly. So that’s something that we’ve really enjoyed doing. And, you know, with the little one we just got we need to sort of support it a little bit and you have to give them stuff to do with each other, encourage them to talk to each other, not just stare at each other. And the older one, we just leave them. You know, we listen in every now and then and find that they’re playing a game together. You know, like I said, in the Netherlands, you are still allowed to let your children go to the playpark and play with other children. So that’s another way that they can also come into contact with peers, but I also realise that that’s not something that everyone’s comfortable with at the moment. Something else that has been really helpful for us has been television, but like trying to like we have a great youth news program in the Netherlands, the Jeugdjournaal, which is definitely a big family favourite for us, that we watch.

Sharon Unsworth: My main source of news sometimes.

Tessa Mearns: Yes. Same for me. And we really enjoy watching that. And that’s actually really nice as well, because it’s helping them also process everything that’s going on around them. We live in such a tumultuous period at the moment. It’s also really nice for them and that they can talk about this current events with the Dutch vocabulary, with both languages, actually. So they’re able to express their feelings and thoughts on all these events in both languages, or if it comes up in a reading exercise at school, that also they’ve seen that in the news and they’ve already got some of the vocabulary for it. Other things that I think would be a really help for them are things like podcasts or radio programmes and things that they can also listen to.

Sharon Unsworth: Yeah, I know. So I know audio books as well. I think there are quite a few platforms are opening up things for free.

Tessa Mearns: Yeah.

Sharon Unsworth: Because of the pandemic, libraries often have audio books, podcasts for sure. In the Netherlands, De Waanzinnige Podcast is a really good podcast all about where children talk about their favourite books. Klokhuis, which is a Dutch TV programme, has a podcast as well, we just started listening to that. And I think this one, I would have to look it up, but I’ll put the link in the show notes, I think Wow in the World, which is an American podcast for kids about science that’s in English. But, you know, I’m sure wherever you are, podcasts for kids are becoming quite a big thing. Also a really great resource to up their language input in whatever language that you’re interested in.

Tessa Mearns: Something that I’m conscious of is that as an international living in that context, that is not your own country, you might not know about all of these things. My advice in that situation is to ask your kids, if they if they’re old enough, ask your kids whether they’ve heard of any of these things through their friends or ask other parents if you can. Just be open and just ask for some tips or what sorts of TV programmes they watch with their kids or what sorts of podcasts their kids might listen to and ask the teachers. The teachers will probably also have some good recommendations for things like that.

Sharon Unsworth: So what else have other people been doing then?

Tessa Mearns: Something that I’ve enjoyed hearing from people as well is that they’ve been using just the material that their kids are getting from school as a way of sort of talking about the language or comparing the language or using both languages together. So if there’s a reading task to do and the child has a question, then the parents can’t always really help because they don’t know the language themselves, or not very well, but they can help their children to access that material just by asking them questions about it. So then it gets the children really thinking. Actually, it’s a great exercise for their cognitive processing, I think, as well. Thinking through what they’re talking, what they’re learning actually, could really help kids to learn it even better. And one of the things that we know about learning is explaining something to somebody else can really help you to process it and learn it yourself. So that’s something that I think was a lovely example to hear about. And another thing that I think it has been a really nice little bonus, actually, is that my daughter’s class… The teacher sometimes plays a game with the kids where they have to, so she says a word or she shows a word or something, and then they have to run as fast as they can and go and find the object in their house. And for my daughter and some of her – she’s got quite a few friends who also speak a different language at home – and for some of them, it’s just been great because they actually didn’t know those words in Dutch because they never talk about kitchen roll.

Sharon Unsworth: Because they’re home words. You don’t talk about those of school.

Tessa Mearns: Yeah. So that was actually a really little bonus that they are actually accessing some vocabulary that they wouldn’t actually use very often at all in Dutch. Unfortunately, that my daughter’s teacher did hold up the word “bra” one day. And I find out that my daughter was the only one who had the guts to go into mummy’s drawer. And so she’s also learned that word.

Sharon Unsworth: Very good. And the rest of the class now knows what underwear you wear.

Sharon Unsworth: So there are positive effects to the lockdown for bilingual families, too, as well as challenges. We’ll talk more about such positive effects on the home language, as well as the use of the home language when doing schoolwork later on. But first, we’re going to talk a bit more about what teachers can do to support bilingual families. Time then to hear from our second guest in this episode, Francesca La Morgia. Originally from Italy, Francesca now lives in Ireland, where she is director of the organisation Mother Tongues.

Francesca la Morgia: Mother Tongues was founded in 2017, and I suppose it grew very quickly as the only organisation in Ireland that deals with supporting both families but also educators, on finding out more about issues related to language, but also culture, identity and education. So, Ireland is a really fascinating place to work in, especially, I’m from Italy and I moved here quite young, but to be here in a context where there is a minority language like Irish, which is taught in schools, was really interesting to me. And obviously, Ireland is quite small and it’s an English-speaking country for the majority of the island, but there’s more than 180 languages spoken around the country. So multilingualism is really everywhere, but it still feels like something quite new. So as an organisation, we’re really the first port of call for anybody who wants to find out about language and multilingualism.

Sharon Unsworth: So like many other countries in the world, Ireland is currently in a lockdown. Can you tell us how multilingual families have been dealing with that and what you’ve been doing as an organisation to help them?

Francesca la Morgia: Yes. So when we first heard that things were getting slowly worse and worse around March time, we were in the middle of piloting a family toddler group, I suppose, where families from around the world were gathering and we were so happy to be able to be there for them, especially for those who were new. And suddenly then this thing kind of shattered our communities. And people who were looking to connect, especially people who were new here, really were found kind of isolated and without, obviously family, but also without a network of friends and support. And so we started to address different areas as a response to this. We supported heritage language teachers of community language teachers who also found themselves suddenly without their pupils, without the families that they were supporting. So we thought maybe what we could do was being a support for them. So every month and actually during the first part of the pandemic, even quite often, every maybe two or three weeks, we would meet with the teachers to find out how the families were doing and how they could be supported better, because the teachers are the ones who have the most day to day contact with their communities. And then we were asked by Trinity College Dublin to collaborate on a project to create a resource for teachers and also for parents who were then starting to realise around maybe April, May time, parents realised the schools were not going to reopen and that it was going to be on us to really deal with the situation and to make the most of this time at home. And so, together with Trinity College, we developed some videos and resources to support both parents and teachers on the homeschooling side of things.

Sharon Unsworth: So that’s home schooling, obviously, mostly in the majority language, so for English. So there’s that side of it. And then I heard you said you’re also in contact with the heritage language teachers. So that’s when children say of Polish or Portuguese heritage follow classes in those languages. So there’s those two aspects. Have you taken the same approach to both? What have you been doing exactly?

Francesca la Morgia: There were different concerns from different. So the mainstream teachers, so the English language teachers, were very concerned because they were missing out on the day to day communication that they had with parents who may have struggled with English. So they had very practical questions such as, “Well, I can’t get through to the family, and even if I do, they can’t speak to me. They need an interpreter,” or “I send homework, but the parents get stressed because they think it’s all on them to actually get it done and to help the children, when actually, all I’m trying to do is to keep the children engaged rather than wanting to put pressure on the family.” So the idea of creating this video for teachers was to give them a couple of tools and ideas to know how to communicate with families who don’t share the same language or are new to English in our context. When we were initially developing this tool kit for teachers with very, very simple, you know, ideas and tips, one of them was really to find creative ways to reach out to families, which, back in March, was really strange because you were used to seeing people every day and suddenly teachers found themselves, like, “Okay, the phone call didn’t work, the email didn’t work. Why am I not able to reach out to this family?” We shared some ideas about translation of messages about using apps that translate your voice and you could be sending an audio message over to the family and for families that don’t write in the school language would be probably better to listen to an audio message. And they can also translate that with some, obviously digital, tools. Again, the digital divide was another major issue at the time and it still continues to be. But we translated some common school messages in Albanian, Arabic, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish so that teachers could pick out some phrases that they wanted to use to communicate the messages. And really the main message to schools were trying to communicate was not “get as much work done as possible,” but it was that even if parents are learning with their children using their mother tongue, this learning is valuable. And I think to me, the main message is that if the parents and the children are engaged in learning activities in the home, this is learning. For the parents with the videos that they could access in Romanian, Polish, Portuguese and Arabic to tell them how they could address literacy, numeracy, so the day to day subjects that the children do in school. And obviously this was directed primarily at primary school children because, of course, it’s very different from secondary, but really on how to learn within the home. Looking at, for example, numeracy by playing out in the garden rather than worrying too much about the textbook or thinking that you have to replicate school, because especially at the very beginning of this pandemic, it was impossible to replicate school. Everybody was in shock and everybody was stressed for many, many different reasons. So it was a way to give a positive and relaxing message to the families that even the learning that takes place when you’re baking a cake is important and it feeds into the child’s academic development.

Sharon Unsworth: Some great tips there from Francesca and her organisation Mother Tongues. You can find links to these resources in the show notes, which you’ll find either in your podcast app or on our website. I’m sure that there will be of use to both parents and teachers in different contexts, as well as those in Ireland or English-speaking countries. Tessa also had some concrete tips for teachers about how to support bilingual families during the lockdown. It’s important to realise that many children who use another language at home often don’t have any real problems with the school language at all. And in some cases, teachers might not even be aware that now that these children are no longer at school, the contact with the school language is, in many cases, quite limited.

Tessa Mearns: It’s important to think for schools not to assume that those kids aren’t going to have any difficulties in the current situation. So suddenly there’s a new group of kids that could need extra support and also that their parents need extra support. So the very first week or two of the first lockdown, we were asked to give our children a spelling test. I know that immediately one of the more assertive parents in the class immediately contacted the teacher and said, I am not going to do this. I can’t pronounce these words well enough to read them out for my daughter to make sure she spells them correctly. Because, you know, as you know, Sharon, the vowel sounds in Dutch can be quite challenging –

Sharon Unsworth: An absolute nightmare.

Tessa Mearns: – to a non-native speaker, even one who’s very proficient. If we pronounce them wrongly then that will affect the way that they spell it. There was an assertive mother in the class who could contact the school and say or contact the teacher and say, “Look, sorry, I can’t do this.” And from that point onwards, that was always seem to be the policy that either they would do it live during a Google Meet or they would prerecord the list of words for the children to listen to at home. And that was wonderful. That made such a difference to making sure that our kids don’t feel somehow disadvantaged or, you know, they don’t really get wrongly marked down for something just because mum couldn’t say it properly.

Sharon Unsworth: Or dad.

Tessa Mearns: Yeah absolutely. Just those little sorts of things. It is quite hard to be aware of everything, especially these times, but just being aware that there are certain things that you might accidentally take for granted that is tricky for families. So staying in touch with them, making sure that they know where they can contact you, that your door’s open if they have feedback, you know. You don’t have to think of everything yourself, but as long as they know that they can approach you and mention when they’re struggling with something that there can be support available if they do need extra support.

Sharon Unsworth: Yeah. And I suppose also being open about it, it’s okay for parents to talk about the school work and explain it in the other language.

Tessa Mearns: Absolutely. That’s a major one. And I think that that’s something that probably doesn’t happen all over the place. It’s an absolutely ideal situation where children are allowed to, really permitted to use their own full sort of linguistic repertoire, all of the language that they have at their disposal in order to learn. This is, I think, this situation just highlights even more how important that is.

Sharon Unsworth: So as we also heard earlier from Francesca, it’s perfectly okay to use the home language to support the type of learning children normally do at school in a different language. In fact, there’s plenty of research showing that giving bilingual children the chance to make use of all the languages that they know, all of their linguistic repertoire as Tessa just called it, can facilitate their understanding as well as making them feel empowered. This is what’s often referred to as translanguaging. It’s a topic that we’ll dedicate a whole episode to at some point later on in the season. The research that’s been done on this topic with children is about what happens at school. But there’s no reason to think that such an approach can also work for children. Now they’re at home. I asked Francesca what advice Mother Tongues has been giving to parents when it comes to using the home language whilst home schooling.

Francesca la Morgia: It changes from family to family, because I think it changes also depending on where the child is in terms of their language learning or language development. So for some families, the real concern was actually say, “I might speak Arabic. My child is stronger in Arabic. Just started school when the lockdown happened. Should we start to teach them English and maths at the same time and everything else?” And actually, probably the advice for that kind of family would be to build on the child’s knowledge in the strongest language, because that will continue, you know, would keep the child learning in the language they know best. In other contexts where the children feel like, say, my own son is doing long division, but he is thinking in English and he’s talking through the, I suppose, the instructions of the teacher through English. And that’s how he memorizes it. That’s how it makes sense in his mind. So I feel in that context, it makes sense for him to continue doing that because it kind of scaffolds his learning. So I’m not going to try and say, “Well, now let’s do it in Italian,” when actually even the methodology of doing divisions, the way I learned it in school is completely different. So I would be adding another layer to his activity. So I think sometimes when it comes to these kind of things, I would separate the homework that is for school that the child feels very comfortable doing in the school language from maybe extra activities that you might want to do in your own language, to continue also the learning of that, whether that’s geography or science. It’s absolutely perfect to do learning, you know, even formal learning in your mother tongue alongside what they’re doing in school. And for me, one big tip would be to listen to the child and what do they want to do? What do they feel relaxed and comfortable doing? And that’s how they learn best, when they are using the language that they feel gets them learning and thinking.

Sharon Unsworth: There’s no one size fits all here, then. You need to think about where your child is at in terms of his or her development in the school language and in the home language, and figure out what you think will work best. It’s not always easy, though. I know that some parents are concerned that because they’re using the school language more at home, this is having negative consequences on the other language. One parent I heard from, Daria Kasimanova, told me that this was definitely the case for her son. Normally she speaks Russian to him but whilst homeschooling, she’s found that she often ends up switching to Dutch because he simply doesn’t have the right vocabulary in Russian, and forcing him to do his schoolwork in Russian would demotivate him and take even longer. Daria wrote that she was really frustrated because his Russian wasn’t as good as his Dutch to start with, and now it’s getting worse. This is definitely a challenge, and I’m sure it can be quite disheartening to parents who were perhaps already struggling to motivate their children to speak their native language. As we heard, though, if you’re a parent who normally speaks the language other than the school language, then it’s perfectly OK to use this to help your kids with their schoolwork. And it doesn’t matter which language this is. Tessa and I’ve been talking about using English to help our children, but it could be Italian, it could be Turkish, it could be Russian, Arabic. It doesn’t matter. If it’s easier for you to explain a concept in that language, then that’s fine. If your child is struggling to understand, though, it’s also OK to mix in words from the school language. This might be the happy medium which parents like Daria are looking for. So you keep the whole language as the main language, but when necessary, switch to the school language. And if you think, well, all this language mixing that can’t be good, then listen to the last episode of Kletsheads, where we talked about language mixing. As Tessa remarked earlier on in this episode, using the whole language whilst homeschooling can sometimes have positive effects on that language, too, as children can pick up new words and structures, more academic language, which they might not have learned otherwise.

Sharon Unsworth: Some parents have reported other positive effects of the lockdown on the children’s home language. Now that were all forced to stay at home there’s more time for families to spend together. And according to a recent study carried out in the UK and Ireland, for many bilingual families, this actually means that children are getting to hear more of the home language than they would do otherwise. This study was conducted by Ludovica Serratrice at the University of Reading, together with colleagues in the UK and Ireland, including Mother Tongues. What these researchers found was that parents reported that their children were learning more new words in the home language, but some had also begun to use the home language more actively, and some had even learned to read in that language. Francesca told me that this is something that she also observed with her daughter. Here’s what she said when I asked her about her own family’s experience of the lockdown.

Francesca la Morgia: Right now, we’ve accepted this second big school closure. Maybe we are more prepared, I think. And so the school has given my children, of course, we speak Italian at home and also English. So the school work, my children do it through English also very much with each other because I have three and they help each other a lot. So they do anything that is school related. They’re doing it in English, through English. My daughter, during the lockdown, took great interest in the Italian language, which she never had. But obviously this passion flourished during the very first part of the of the lockdown. And so she started to take classes at the weekends online. And now she’s always looking for opportunities to use Italian more. And she asked me to tell her a story. So I’m quite positive that this lockdown has really contributed to use in Italian more. But definitely we have this divide now that the school language is for homework and Italian is for things that are not related to school, but that’s how it works in our family.

Sharon Unsworth: I’m curious as to why. Why do you think your daughter suddenly became very interested in Italian?

Francesca la Morgia: I was just really fascinated by this. When she’s with me and when I gave her time, she tends to want to speak Italian more than when we’re all you know, with three children. You’re always running and trying to solve some issues with someone.

Sharon Unsworth: Fighting a fire somewhere.

Francesca la Morgia: Exactly. I have seen it over the years that when I was dedicating really quality time just to her, and she’s the middle child, so she’s the one who suffered the most out of this kind of trio. But when I give her one to one time, she started to respond to me more in Italian or she started to say, “Oh, it’s just me and you going there.” She really always points out when we have a special time together that it’s really important to her. So, probably, the extra time we had to spend together made her want to connect more with the language. And she’s six, well almost seven. So she knows Italian. But I’m really interested, you know, I really want to enter her brain to find out what triggered all this suddenly.

Sharon Unsworth: Yeah, some families are actually finding the lockdown has helped the development of the home language. Is that something that you hear from the families that you work with?

Francesca la Morgia: Definitely. Actually, only last week we had a meeting with Irish-based families, kind of scattered around the island, but all kind of trying to keep up their home languages. And we met purely because we wanted to know how we can support them better during this really difficult time. And everybody was talking about how either in a good way or not so good way, the pandemic has impacted how they use language. But for the majority of them, it was an opportunity to even rethink how they’re using language on a daily basis because they had more time with the children. So even strategies that might have been working for a long time, now they need to be readjusted because everybody’s in the same space, everybody’s working from home. So it was really fascinating to hear how they’re adjusting to this situation.

Sharon Unsworth: As we’re seeing for many aspects of our lives, the impact of the lockdown on bilingual families has been both positive and negative. Time will only tell to what extent this impact is lasting at the Radboud University here in Nijmegen, we’re in the process of setting up a similar survey to the one in the UK. So if you’re based over here in the Netherlands, keep an eye on social media to find out more. We’ll be looking for families to take part from around mid-March. That was it for this special episode of Kletsheads on the impact of the lockdown on bilingual children. I want to thank my two guests, Tessa Mearns and Francesca La Morgia, for taking the time to share their experiences and tips with us. I hope they’ll be of use to many of you. Stay safe and until the next time. If you want to know more about Kletsheads, go to That’s where you’ll also find more information about this episode. And if you want to make sure you don’t miss an episode, subscribe to Kletsheads using your favourite podcast app. Make sure you select the English edition. And if you’ve enjoyed the show, why not share it with a friend? Thanks for listening. And as we say in Dutch: tot het volgende keer.

This transcript was generated using and was checked by Marieke van den Akker.

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