METM22 presentation

Navigating the early bilingual landscape: code-mixing and reception in Portugal

Phillippa M. Bennett, Coimbra, Portugal

While scholars have debunked the myth that bilinguals are intellectually inferior, parents of children growing up with more than one language still face scepticism (Wei, 2000), which is often expressed as claims of “delays” and even that bilingualism is “detrimental” to a child’s intellectual well-being.

As a mother of two early bilinguals (aged 3 and 5.5 years, growing up in an English/Portuguese one-person, one-language environment, with Portuguese as the community language), I aim to give those interested in bilingualism and those unfamiliar with the topic an insight into the bilingual landscape in Portugal, through personal reflection and data.

In August 2021, in an attempt to reconcile my experience with that of other bilingual families living in Portugal, I surveyed 26 bilingual families with children over the age of three on their experiences with the Portuguese education system and their perception of their child/children’s bilingualism and code-mixing. My aim was to find out whether my own experience reflected the literature on the topic and current practice in Portugal.

In this presentation, I will report on my survey, provide important updates, and highlight the continued need for a change in attitudes towards bilingualism in Portugal.

Wei, L. (2000) Dimensions of bilingualism. In Wei, L. (ed.) The Bilingualism Reader, Routledge

About the presenter

Phillippa M. Bennett lectures in Translation and English at the University of Coimbra and has been a professional Portuguese-English translator specialising in the life sciences for the last 14 years. She is currently pursuing her PhD at Nova University Lisbon on the topic of agency in the translation and publication of the Portuguese Journal of Cardiology.