Infographic meertaligheid in beeld
Infographic meertaligheid in beeld

Bilingualism in the picture

Three educational animations about bilingualism for primary school pupils, parents and teachers!
Project type

Bilingualism is a hot topic, one which is increasingly the subject of conversation in many primary schools. To facilitate this conversation, we have created three short animations about bilingualism for primary school children (aged 6 through 12 years) and their teachers. Our hope is that by watching these animations, they will actively experience how fascinating and omnipresent bilingualism is. The animations can also be used by teachers and health professionals to give information about bilingualism to parents in a way which is easy to understand, readily accessible, and available in bite-sized chunks.

Three informative animation clips on multilingualism for primary school pupils

In the Netherlands, most children grow up monolingual, but the multilingual minority is significant and growing due to increasing immigration. Monolingual children also increasingly come into contact with languages other than Dutch at an early age. This may be through contact with their bilingual classmates or by learning a second language at school.

Bilingual primary education has been on the rise in recent years. Almost one in five primary schools in the Netherlands already offers a foreign language from group 1, usually about one hour a week and usually English. In just under 20 schools, English is even used as the target language for up to 50% of teaching time. Multilingual language provision is now being experimented with in childcare as well. By offering early and many offerings in a foreign language, the thinking goes, we educate children in the Netherlands to become multilingual European citizens, thereby increasing their future prospects.

Multilingualism at school

However, the focus on multilingualism in education does not always concern only the provision of high-status languages, such as English. From teachers and teacher training institutes, there is increasing interest in a multilingual approach to teaching. Such an approach means that pupils' home languages are also given a place in the classroom, for instance by making comparisons between languages, or by introducing pupils to each other's languages. The multilingualism already present in the classroom is thus seen as a resource from which the teacher can draw to further language learning - for all pupils, not just the multilingual ones. This can have several goals, including improving attitudes towards language diversity and supporting the home language of non-native learners. This ultimately ensures better language development in both languages (including Dutch, that is) and thus also increases these children's chances of educational success.

Clip 1 - We're all a bit bilingual

The aim of the first animation is to make bilingualism a topic of conversation. What is bilingualism actually? By discussing various types of bilingualism, we try to appeal to as many students as possible.


Clip 2 - What's it like growing up with two languages

In the second animation we show what it’s like to grow up as a bilingual child. What does it really mean to be bilingual? Do you always know the same words in both languages? And what are the pros and cons of growing up bilingually?

Clip 3 - A multilingual mishmash in your head

In the third animation we zoom in on the head of a bilingual child. Can you 'turn off' one language when you speak or hear the other? And how come people who are bilingual sometimes switch from one language to the other?


A list of the scientific sources of the three clips can be found below.


This project came about through funds made available through the annual popularisation award of the National Research School of Linguistics.


The script for Multilingualism in Pictures was written by Sharon Unsworth and Gerrit Jan Kootstra with help from Kees Oerlemans and Jan van Baren-Nawrocka and voiced by Susanne Brouwer.

The animations were developed by Kees Oerlemans and drawn by Kees Oerlemans and Leon Lukassen.

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