General description of the study

The formation of metalinguistic awareness (defined as the mental ability to comprehend the structure and function of language/s in order to use it/them for appropriate linguistic behaviour) is an implicit as well as an explicit goal of language lessons at school. To date, little is known about the development of metalinguistic awareness or its related factors. There are also few studies concerning the role of multilingualism in metalinguistic awareness.


With a sample size of N=400, the precursor project ‘Language Skills and Metalinguistic Awareness’ showed that multilingual primary school children – when involved in metalinguistic interactions – reflect in more differentiated ways and more often about language(s) than monolingual students (after controlling for age, cognitive ability and language skills) (Bien-Miller et al., 2017). Moreover, it was shown that the entire range of language competences is an important predictor of metalinguistic awareness (Akbulut et al., 2017).


The follow-up project ‘MehrSprachen’ (ManyLanguages) focuses on the transfer of these findings to educational practice. The objective is to investigate language reflective German lessons in which topics of language are foregrounded and the possible effects on the metalinguistic awareness of the primary school children in attendance. The leading research question is whether these pupils profit from such lessons in terms of their German-language competences and/or metalinguistic awareness.