Translation of the interview of Christine Hélot, professeure des Universités à Strasbourg, ESPE Alsace
So this question is a rather complex pedagogical question, but one can answer right away: “Yes, absolutely! “.
The bilingual programs that have been very successful in showing children learning to read and write in two languages at the same time are Canada’s bilingual programs, where children learn to read and write in both English and French. So, in this context, it is immediately noticeable that we have two languages that are ‘valued’ languages. It’s much more complicated, of course, when you have two languages of unequal status or two languages that don’t have the same alphabet, for example, Arabic and French.
This does not mean that because children learn to read and write in French at school, at the age of about 6 years, they cannot learn to read and write at the same time in Arabic at home or in support classes for this language.
Recent work has shown that it is in fact possible to start learning to read and write two languages at the same time. For a long time, it was believed that the first language, or mother tongue, had to be well acquired first. That one learns to read and write in the mother tongue before being able to learn to read and write in a second language.
In fact, work on bilingual education today shows that it is very possible to start in both languages at the same time. But of course, it will take tools for the child to learn to read in both languages and, again, children’s literature and books in the non-dominant language will play a very important role in this learning.
Thanks to Christine Hélot