Comment: The joy of multilingual learningAugust 4, 2016, 11:00 am GMT
In today's ever smaller world, schools need to be orientating their curricula towards nurturing tomorrow's global citizens. This means implementing an inclusive teaching approach that recognises and supports all languages and cultures present in the school.
We need "interlingual" classrooms and schools. The "inter" prefix brings the notion of everyone being open and responsive to learning about other languages. In the interlingual classroom children not only learn their own mother-tongue but about all the other classroom languages as well.
Ofelia García from The Graduate Centre, New York, argues that translanguaging (using languages flexibly, shifting and mixing them in the learning process) has much value for bilingual children. It gives them a voice and builds on their home language practices. It also creates authentic language awareness activities for monolingual children by stirring the natural linguistic curiosity that is inherent in all young children.
Inspirational Pedagogy was coined by Dr Jim Cummins, professor emeritus at University of Toronto. He describes it as the kind of instruction that you would like your own child to receive. It involves school and literacy experiences that students remember throughout their lives. Communication becomes more inclusive and democratic through the "emerging, inspirational pedagogy" of interlingual teaching and learning.
Through genuine experiences with other languages in the formative years of schooling, we can set a trend of international mindedness that will be a step towards our world becoming more genuinely democratic, pluricultural and plurilingual.
Sometimes, parents or carers believe that the best way for non-English language background children to integrate into the school life is to jump into English and leave their home languages behind. They may feel that support for their home language slows their children down in acquiring English. Sadly, this belief is misinformed.
We can help show parents the benefits of this approach and explain that respected research demonstrates that children need a strong home language as a foundation to build on.
Teachers can facilitate the process by helping children connect key words and concepts from the classroom to their home or second language. This will ensure the interlingual classroom empowers children for lifelong learning and enables them to act effectively and powerfully in their personal lives and on the global stage.
Communication and language
Involving children in critical thinking rather than giving the child knowledge to learn and regurgitate is also a crucial step in the language acquisition process. Children naturally investigate in order to learn; they want to experience things.
We know that learning language starts with the child and is controlled by the child. The motivation to communicate comes from within and as a result of other children and adults activating their natural curiosity and moving language development forward.
Ensure your classroom is a place where, through cultural awareness and respect for other languages, the ideas and responsibilities of "world citizenship" are nurtured and developed. Embrace interlingual teaching to ensure your children learn to work within an international framework of tolerance and respect.
Eithne Gallagher, Author of The Glitterlings
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