First Advisor

Lynn Santelmann

Term of Graduation

Spring 2003

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages


Applied Linguistics




German language -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- English speakers, German language -- Study and teaching -- Immersion method, English language -- Study and teaching (Elementary) -- German speakers, English language -- Study and teaching -- Immersion method



Physical Description

1 online resource (104 pages)


When bilinguals converse with one another, they make choices about which language to speak. Many different factors have been shown to influence adult bilinguals' language choice, including interlocutor, setting, discourse content and discourse function. Less, however, is known about the factors influencing the language choice behavior of young bilinguals. Although case studies have provided into the type of language choice behavior exhibited by individual children, there is a lack of knowledge of the course of development from the language choice behavior of early childhood bilinguals to the more complex behavior of adult bilinguals.

This thesis examines the developmental pattern of language choice behavior in bilingual children at a German foreign-language immersion school in the Pacific Northwest. Four children, aged five through eleven years of age, were selected as participants. Each participant was observed throughout and entire school day on three separate occasions. Observations were made on the participants' language choice behavior (German or English), with specific attention paid to interlocutor, setting, discourse content and discourse function.

Analysis of the observations revealed age-based differences in language choice behavior, which suggests that bilingual children do in fact go through a developmental process of acquiring the competence for language-choice. In addition, the children appear to develop two different types of language-choice competence, one for communicating with peers and another for communicating with adults. Finally, results concerning the development of language-choice behavior can be best explained by children's stages of social development, rather than by adult models of sociolinguistic behavior.


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