Moving from monolingual to plurilingual

Due to global developments, linguistic and cultural diversity in society are increasing. School life is part of this reality. The world is multilingual and individuals are plurilingual. In this section, you will reflect on the new challenges you encounter as an L1 teacher in an increasingly heterogeneous teaching and learning environment.

What you will learn in this section

The aims of this section are to:  

  • learn more about the relevance of an inclusive approach that values all languages;
  • reflect on what an inclusive approach that values all languages means for you as a (future) teacher and your role as a teacher of the language of schooling;
  • learn more about the challenges you will have to deal with as a teacher of the language of schooling and about the specific competences you will need in the classroom;
  • learn more about methods to investigate and illustrate multilingualism/plurilingualism in a school or regional environment.

(see also Marille 2011, 33–36)


  • Reflecting on the main competences needed by teachers of the language of schooling
  • Reflecting on the system/curriculum of teacher education in your country/region
  • Reflecting on the system: a whole school/institution policy process


Reflecting on the main competences needed by teachers of the language of schooling

Try to find five competences that could be important for your role as a (future) teacher of the language of schooling in a linguistically diverse environment. These competences can focus on knowledge, attitudes and skills.

  • What has to be changed with regard to L1 teaching, considering the linguistic diversity of the learners?
  • What are your teaching experiences in this context? Include the observations of other teachers.

Try to find 5 good reasons why it is important to support plurilingualism through L1 teaching.

You can make use of these reflective questions for teachers (see Marille project).

You can also have a look at this video on the subject of Polish in Poland.


Reflecting on the system/curriculum of teacher education in your country/region

Looking at curricula

Have a look at the teacher education curriculum in your region or country. Is there an inclusive and plurilingual approach? Is the curriculum relevant to your teaching (school curriculum) or to your studying (teacher training curriculum)?

Try to identify some relevant parts (i.e. competence levels, aims or course profiles) relating to L1 teaching in heterogeneous classes. Here are some questions that could be used as guidelines for this analysis:

  • What competences defined in the curriculum are relevant for supporting pluricultural and plurilingual education?
  • In which courses or subjects is training in these competences provided?
  • Are there any pedagogical suggestions concerning the question: how are these competences going to be taught?
  • Have you personally gained any relevant experience concerning inclusive and plurilingual education as learners at school or during your studies?

Here you can find some links to curricula that could be used for analysis:

Conducting a survey

Do you learn/study in an institution open to inclusive and pluriligual education?

Conduct a survey on plurilingual students in your  teacher education institution. Here are some starting points for your research:

  • How do plurilingual students feel about the pluralistic approach in the institution they are studying in?
  • How open-minded do they find the institution?
  • What facilities are available to support a pluralistic approach? (plurilingual trainers, courses in different languages, language-learning options, information material, special support, etc.)?
  • How can plurilingual students make use of their plurilingual repertoires in courses for L1 teachers or in other settings during their studies?


Reflecting on the system: a whole school/institution policy process

"It is hard to argue that we are teaching the whole child when school policy dictates that students leave their language and culture at the schoolhouse door ..." (Cummins et al., 2005)

Creating a welcoming and inclusive school environment for learners and their families is a whole-school activity and requires the commitment of the principal, teachers, support staff and other leaders within the school community. The reward for this committed effort is a dynamic and vibrant school environment that celebrates diversity as an asset and enriches the learning experience for all students.
(adapted: Many roots Many voices, Supporting English language learners in every classroom. A practical guide for Ontario educators, page 36 - 41)

The welcoming school/institution - how does it work?

Task (work in small groups): choose one of the reflection instruments below (choose the one you are most interested in) and analyse the school/institution you are working/studying in. You can choose one specific area that you want to analyse in more detail.

Material 1: Many roots, Many voices: Supporting English Language Learners in Every Classroom

This curriculum is designed to help principals, teachers and other education professionals at elementary and secondary level work effectively with English language learners. It is a rich source of practices and strategies that can be put to immediate use in the school and the classroom. Have a closer look at the reflection sheets (pages 36-41)that can help you to identify existing policy characteristics and strengths, as well as to rethink the way your school/institution welcomes new students (and their families). You will find helpful guidlines in four main areas:

  • First impression
  • Be welcoming
  • Get newcomers involved
  • Be inclusive: reflect your community

Material 2:  ECML-Project Ensemble -  promoting linguistic diversity and whole-school development

The project results provide a wide range of reflection and research instruments relating to the promotion of linguistic diversity and whole-school development. You will find a model for gathering data relevant to the development of a school language profile. This profile is seen as an initial step to developing a whole-school language policy. Here are the guidelines for collecting data.

Material 3: ECML-Project MARILLE

The project resusults include helpful questionnaires for collecting data ready to be used: 

Material 4: ECML project PlurCur


Header image based on "Balloons" by Giusi Barbiani (CC BY-NC 2.0).


Main challenges for teachers facing linguistic diversity