Between 2016 and 2018, MEZ followed two parallel cohorts over four waves of data collection. The student participants began in either Grade 7 or 9 and were followed through to the end of Grade 9 or 11, respectively. Of the ca. 2,000 participants, pupils in the multilingual group had either Russian or Turkish as a heritage language; a comparison group of monolinguals (i.e. only German) was also included. Over the four survey waves, the project employed language tests and student questionnaires. A test for nonverbal cognitive skills as well as parental and school principal questionnaires were also conducted in the first wave.
The language tests included the elicitation of receptive language skills (reading and listening comprehension) as well as productive language skills (written and oral) in German, the heritage and foreign languages. The questionnaires provided information on the educational and career aspirations of the pupils. Moreover, information on contextual and personal factors was collected (e.g. migration history, language use, motivation, social background, school curriculum) as they influence both language and educational development. A further aspect concerned social and peer networks as a possible influencing factor on participants’ development. MEZ produced an extensive data set that goes beyond those of comparable large-scale surveys in the field of multilingual research. It will be available to the research community for subsequent and secondary use.
The follow-up project to MEZ focusses specifically on the phase in adolescents’ lives in which they prepare for their professional or vocational paths (i.e. by vocational orientation courses, by vocational training on the job, by following the academic track, or by academic education). MEZ-2 allows us to further investigate the skills and characteristics of participants collected and documented in the MEZ project. Moreover, on the basis of this data and the changing biographies of the participants, new aspects concerning the relationship between language/multilingual skills and career orientation may be examined. As the MEZ project was still running, 1,127 students agreed to participate in this follow-up study. Since most were no longer in their former school, MEZ-2 data collection was conducted individually via a mixed-mode survey design comprising online and postal formats. Data collection occurred at two measurements points with an intervening period of one year.
Productive language skills were measured using the written tasks developed in the MEZ project. Receptive language skills were measured via a reading comprehension test, and general language skills in a C-test. The languages assessed were German (as majority and language of schooling), Russian and Turkish (as heritage languages), and English as a foreign language. Additional receptive and professionally relevant language skills were tested in German. Within the context of school-to-career transition, MEZ-2 followed up on the educational and career aspirations, expectations, language attitudes and identities of the participants. Taken together, their perceptions of labour-market demands for language skills are further examined. Psychological resources that function as resilience factors in transitional phases are also appraised. Finally, the role of digital media in acquiring and maintaining multilingual skills, as well as functioning as information channels for career options, are considered.