Celebrating Linguistic Diversity Conference

Celebrating Jim Cummins’ work in The African Storybook Project

Those of you familiar with the phenomenal work of Jim Cummins are aware of the importance of mother tongue development in literacy, academic development and second language learning. At our own Celebrating Linguistic Diversity Conference in 2014 Bonny Norton gave a very powerful keynote address (fourth video down) summarizing the work of Dr. Cummins and how it directly applies to her own work in Africa, entitled The African Storybook Project. Dr. Norton provides us with an overview of Dr. Cummins’ work, discussing how it has influenced her own work, and enumerating the intersectionality of both of their work. This is an important video to watch and re-watch. How does your work intersect with the work of Dr. Cummins and Dr. Norton? How does the celebration of linguistic diversity and specifically the development of languages in school contribute to Diversity in Teaching? We would love to hear your comments.

Mother Tongue-based Multilingual Education

There is a great deal more attention given to the languages used in children’s education these days. This attention is a result of a growing realization that starting children in a foreign language such as English is significantly less productive than beginning them in their mother tongue.  While many governments and aid groups are working hard to provide universal primary education for all children across the globe, ignoring the language issue means those efforts often result in less effective education. Children need to begin their learning through a language they understand and speak every day. Using their mother tongue, or first language, enables children to understand the teacher and comprehend the lesson. Building on learner’s everyday experiences and home culture also aids learning considerably. Literacy in the mother tongue has a significantly positive impact on developing literacy in any other language subsequently. Children thrive when their mother tongue is used in school. Beginning with the mother tongue also helps them achieve higher proficiency in second and third languages, like their national language and English.

This post from Australia indicates that mother tongue-based bilingual education contributes toward inclusive and equitable quality education for all learners and particularly for speakers of non-dominant languages. For the full story click here.

Likewise, Indonesia is addressing the same issue of inclusive and equitable quality education for minority language speakers. Educators state that when the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, is used in schools children cannot follow what the teacher is saying because they don’t hear that language at home. They become embarrassed that they don’t understand and keep quiet in class as a result, essentially remaining disengaged. For the Indonesian story click here.

Likewise Bangladesh is struggling to implement mother tongue-based multilingual education as an effort toward addressing human rights issues. When children are educated in their mother tongue they learn better and read better, empowering them in multiple ways. See their story here.

Many countries around the world are working hard to strengthen education programs by adjusting language policies from dominant language education to mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB MLE). Celebrating all languages in the classroom is a strong means of supporting and valuing diversity.

Ethnic minority students in HK have difficulty getting into post-secondary programs

A new study in Hong Kong shows that ethnic minority students who have learned Cantonese as a second language often have difficulty getting into post-secondary schools of their choice due to interviews conducted in Cantonese. The study reveals that this difficulty is often due to their skills in Cantonese, the dominant language of Hong Kong. This study may corroborate Dr. Becky Chen’s research, noted in yesterday’s post found here, that highlights the advantages of first language development and first language literacy for strengthening second language development and second language literacy.

Minority language speakers around the world typically do not have access to school based first language development or first language literacy. Education systems in multilingual contexts often use immersion education as a means of teaching the second language. However, this becomes problematic when available resources are not the same as in contexts where immersion education has been highly successful, namely Canada. Typically teachers in southern contexts do not have access to training in bilingual education pedagogies. As such, they merely use vast amounts of the second language in order to facilitate second language acquisition rather than ensuring comprehensible input and scaffolding of output. Neither do teachers have access to a wide variety of materials in both languages that Canadian teachers in successful immersion programs  typically had. Additionally, parents in Canadian immersion programs were supportive of first language literacy development in their children’s second language immersion education. Parents in southern contexts often do not support home language development at school but prefer 2nd language immersion programs for their children. Preference of immersion education is a result of a lack of knowledge of what the research actually says. For example, OISE researchers Becky Chen and Jim Cummins, as well as many other scholars show the value of the first language in education for strong development of the second language. However, access to this body of literature is not common in many places.

The result of this lack of attention to minority language and literacy development actually produces tremendous inequality for speakers of minority languages.  As indicated by the Hong Kong study, the consequences often lead to inequitable access to further education and career choice. Thus there is a huge need for all of us to understand and value all languages for social and academic development rather than merely attending to the most dominant languages. Valuing and celebrating linguistic diversity contributes to a more equitable society.

Language and Literacy Transfer – what does the research say?

At OISE’s home page, on the right hand side there is a short video of Dr. Becky Chen’s research. She looks at transfer of language and literacy between first languages and second languages. Her research has found that first language development and first language literacy is very important for transfer to second language development and second language literacy.  Her findings are helpful for classroom instruction and for parent planning for language use at home. Take less than two minutes to hear her informative and short video.

Bilingual or monolingual pedagogies?

Have you ever wondered whether following monolingual pedagogies in your ESL or EFL classes is better than employing bilingual pedagogies for your diverse students? Recent research in two different contexts looks into teachers’ preferences from the perspective of the literature. Have a look at our own DIT website under the CLD presentations tab. Here is the direct link: