Biliteracy in English and Korean : a case study of writing development during primary years

  • Bo-Ai Ko

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In the era of globalization, growing numbers of children are living in situations where the language of their formal schooling is different from that of the everyday communication in their family. In such a bilingual context, this study documents biliteracy development of two Korean background children growing up in Australia. The children's written texts (both in English and Korean) were collected over the period of 5 years 8 months (from preschool through primary school) both in home and school contexts, and analyzed using the Systemic Functional Grammar as well as genre and register theory. Throughout the researcher's regular classroom observation and participation in their school's literacy activities as well as in the home context, a detailed documentation of the children's socio-linguistic environment is also provided as an important part of this longitudinal case study's data collection and analysis. Over the period, the children's writing in both English and Korean developed quite significantly in terms of their control of the register in text. With the introduction of Genre-based Approach in their school, they had opportunities in learning to write a range of genres such as Narrative, Report, Explanation, Argument and Procedure in English to meet the expectations of the mainstream curriculum. The children's writing in Korean was mainly developing to satisfy their personal and interpersonal communication needs, largely through diary writing, E-mails and personal letters to extended family. Their developmental patterns of writing different genres as well as their control of written language have been examined largely through the analysis of the system of Transitivity, the use of nominal groups, Theme choice and Mood system. The similarity and difference in literacy practices between the two children (the brother and the sister) are also discussed. As the key to the two ESL background children's successful biliteracy development throughout their primary schooling period, this case study emphasizes the importance of the supportive parents' role through mother tongue maintenance and an effective literacy program, such as Genre-based Approach, which provides practical guidance for developing written language through learning a range of genres with different social functions and purposes. The literacies in English and Korean have been found to be mutually supportive and thus it is argued that the whole biliteracy development in this case study has an enhancing effect on the children's academic achievement in their Australian schooling. Simultaneously, with their continuous biliteracy development, the children were able to enjoy being part of a caring Korean-speaking family and community. Moreover, this whole process of biliteracy development certainly provided the two ESL children with a positive self-concept and socio-cultural identity as a balanced proud bilingual. In this regard, it is argued that the successful outcome of this case study of the ESL children's bilieracy development can be identified as a case of an 'empowering' additive bilingualism.
    Date of Award2008
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMarina Houston (Supervisor) & Mary Macken-Horarik (Supervisor)

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