Reflect on the key ideas
The role of first language
Research has clearly demonstrated that bilingualism has a significant positive effect in terms of cognitive flexibility, intercultural skills and identity development. The programmes in which students’ native languages are valued and promoted as resources for learning offer the most effective approach for supporting second language learners’ social, cognitive and academic growth in the language of schooling. As Jim Cummins (2000: 39) puts it: “Conceptual knowledge developed in one language helps to make input into the other language comprehensible.”
Therefore, effective language of schooling teaching does not close off options for the use of other languages in the classroom. Quite the contrary, it is important to remind learners that their native language is valuable and can be an advantage to learning new languages. The use of students’ mother tongues, if integrated into the curriculum, supports the academic and intellectual development of learners and enables them to better participate in curriculum activities and benefit from their full range of linguistic resources. It also strengthens students’ cultural and linguistic identities.
- What is the role of other languages in the teaching tradition of the language of schooling in your region?
- In your opinion, do you see a need for change in the tradition regarding the use of other languages?
Watch a video about Moises, a ten-year-old latino student in the US, who struggles to communicate in his new school with limited access to his native language. Then discuss the questions below.
- Do you find the use of different languages disturbing in the classroom? Can you see what benefits and opportunities they bring?
- How could teachers benefit more from students’ first languages and other language repertoires in the language of schooling classroom?
Learning two or more languages at the same time – do languages interfere with each other?
It is natural that learners compare and contrast first (L1) and second language (L2) as they work to understand patterns and expressions. They make mistakes and mix up languages. They use one language to better understand another. This is needed to become more competent in using and for controlling multiple language resources.
For what purposes do students typically use their L1s in the classroom?
They may explain, plan and structure tasks to each other
They may talk about aspects of L2 that cause problems
See and read more
Watch some classroom videos with a plurilingual approach.
Read more about these issues: Walqui & van Lier 2010. Scaffolding the academic success of adolescent English language learners: A pedagogy of Promise. WestEd. (especially pp. 58–62)