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Multilingual Families’ Response to COVID-19: New Opportunities and Challenges

Supported by German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development (GIF)

Vladislava Warditz, University of Potsdam, Germany ( = Principal Investigator Germany), in collaboration with Natalia Meir, Bar-Ilan University, Israel (= Principal Investigator Israel)

About this project

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented changes world-wide and continues to affect societies and communities in a number of different ways. Challenges of linguistic minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic have been recently described in the light of the inaccessibility to emergency language services and in the light of linguistic racism pointing at dual pandemics that these communities are undergoing. The proposed study will contribute to the investigation of experience of multilingual communities by documenting language practices in multilingual families during COVID-19. Based on the perceived experiences of multilingual communities, we aim to provide an after-COVID-19 roadmap which is aimed at enhancing harmonious multilingual development. The project comes at a critical point in time for countries with multilingual populations, like Germany and Israel: the two countries have the largest proportions of pre-school and school children with immigrant backgrounds of the first and second generation (Israel: 17%; Germany: 16.9%).

The proposed project will be a snapshot of the experiences of language dynamics in multilingual families in Israel and in German during the COVID-19. The current bilateral project will document language shifts in multilingual children during C0VID-19 due to variations in micro- and macro-factors shaping family language policy and exposure to the two languages. Second, it will evaluate access to remote learning in multilingual children during COVID-19. Finally, recommendations distilled from the experiences of multilingual communities learned during the response to COVID-19 will provide a basis for the development of future steps in maintaining harmonious multilingualism in children.

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