Archive for the ‘Multilingualism’ Category

Advantages of Multilingualism

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

As a result of globalization, there is greater cultural, racial, and linguistic diversity in our schools. Multilingualism is a growing phenomenon, and schools all over the world are devising strategies to meet the needs of multilingual children. The term multilingual refers to an individual who uses two or more languages, and this is a reality for many of our students.

Most linguists generally agree that there are between 2,500-7,000 languages being used in the world today, depending on your definition of a language, and monolinguals are a minority. It used to be thought that learning two or more languages was detrimental to a child’s cognitive development; however, researchers have found the opposite. Balanced bilinguals and multilinguals, individuals who are highly proficient in two or more languages, demonstrate a higher cognitive proficiency. They usually do better at school, enjoy better employment prospects, and are more tolerant and confident than their monolingual peers.

The acquisition of more than one language promotes intellectual and cognitive development. Research has shown that languages learned at different stages in life are stored in different areas of the brain. As a result, multilinguals stimulate different parts of the brain. Language learners have a better meta-linguistic understanding; they have a greater awareness of meaning and structure in language. They understand how languages are put together, which leads to a better understanding of their first language. Since language skills are transferable, knowing more than one language gives individuals an edge in learning additional languages.

Socially, multilingualism promotes relations between different linguistic and cultural communities. Language is a window into a culture and different ways of looking at the world. Being able to communicate in more than one language means that individuals develop a sense of cultural understanding and a unique perspective available only in that language. This understanding leads to acceptance, tolerance, and a more global perspective.

There are definite advantages to being able to communicate in more than one language. The world is becoming more connected and the ability to communicate effectively and understand cultural differences is an invaluable skill for our global society.

What makes a good language learner?

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Learning a language is an exciting and challenging task. Why do some people learn languages faster than others? Each learner and every learning experience is unique, but educators have tried to identify patterns or characteristics of the language learning process. Here are a few of the characteristics of good language learners.

Good language learners are organized. These learners have strategies that enable them organize new information into patterns that will help them make connections and integrate new concepts. These tools provide a framework that helps learners access and retain information, and transfer it to new situations.

Good language learners link new information to prior experience. They connect what they are learning to concepts or experience they already have. Background knowledge creates a context and foundation for new ideas.

Good language learners think about how they learn. They understand how they learn best and adapt strategies that best suit their individual learning styles.

Good language learners are independent. They realize that they are not going to learn a language by sitting in a classroom and relying on the teacher to totally direct their learning. They are motivated to ask questions, read independently, and use language in social settings both in and out of the classroom.

Good language learners are willing to take risks. They are not afraid to experiment and try new approaches to learning. They are not afraid to talk and make mistakes because they understand that this is the best way to learn.

Good language learners are realistic. Learning a new language takes time and effort. Most researchers agree that it takes between 5-7+ years to learn a new language. Good language learners give themselves permission to improve at their own rate of progress. They are patient and persevere.

Good language learners have a balanced approach to communication. They monitor their speech by listening to what they say and watching how their message is being received. They also listen to how other people communicate their ideas. Good language learners are concerned with accuracy and make an effort to use correct forms of the language, but not to the point that it stops them from speaking or writing.

Good language learners have clear goals. They know why they want to learn another language and take advantage of the opportunities they have by actively participating in both the academic and social life of the school.

The importance of mother tongue

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Why is it important to maintain and develop your first language?

Research has shown that English language learners (ELLs) in international schools learn English faster and more efficiently if they maintain and develop their proficiency in their mother tongue. If your child has a solid foundation in his or her first language, then he or she will be able to transfer these language skills to English. Encourage your child to read and write in his or her own language at home. It is good to read a vareity of both fiction and non-fiction text in the home language.

It is also important that your child and your family maintain a connection to your own country, culture, family, and friends. The goal is to learn an additional languge, English, but also maintain the mother tongue so that your child can become a multilingual.

As a parent, you can help your child learn English better by…

  • Continuing to read and write in your home language
  • Talking to your child about what he/she is reading at school in your home language
  • Asking your child to retell part of a story in your home language
  • Providing reading materials in your home language for your child
  • Explaining a new concept your child might be learning at school in your home language