Linguistic Heterogeneity Teaching English in Multilingual Classrooms
by agnethahinzgooglemailcom (student)
Fachbereich Philosophie und Geisteswissenschaften / Institut für Englische Philologie – Didaktik des Englischen
Course number: XXX
Lecturer: Dr. XXX
Linguistic Heterogeneity – Teaching English in Multilingual Classrooms
Name: Agnetha Hinz
Table of contents
. Teaching English in multilingual classrooms: Central problems 3
2. L2 vs L3 – Learning differences 4
3. Language Awareness – The concept 7
4. Practical examples 9
5. Conclusion 12
. Bibliography 14
. Teaching English in multilingual classrooms: Central problems
Globalization as well as increased immigration – the latter, among other things, caused by “war or civil conflict[s], political or religious oppression and other human rights abuses” (Coelho, 2004: 15) – lead to an increasing incidence of cultural heterogeneity in the classroom and thus, to the presence of different mother tongues and diverse linguistic prerequisites. Especially when working as a foreign language teacher it is important to be aware of the pupils’ level of linguistic knowledge in order to address the teaching content expediently. However, under the circumstances of class compositions with a high cultural and linguistical heterogeneity, teaching and learning a foreign language like English can not only be seen as a challenge for foreign language teachers but especially as a challenge for those pupils with migration background who potentially lack a formal language level of both, their mother tongue as well as the local language – German – as their second language. In order to promote the pupils’ competencies entirely and according to their respective language levels, the following questions need to be asked:
. How do bilingual or multilingual children deal with the acquisition of a further foreign language and which significance does the level of their first language have regarding foreign language learning?
2. Which didactical methods can be used to include the learners’ entire linguistic repertoire into foreign language teaching for the purpose of systematically developing the target language English?
These questions will be investigated in the following sections by firstly examining the differences between the acquisition process of the second and the third language. Furthermore, as potential didactic support, a concept dwelling on the possibility of dealing with the pupils’ language knowledge in an efficient way to acquire further languages will be presented. Finally, chapter 3 contains practical examples on how to integrate minority languages in the English learning classroom.
. L2 vs L3 – Learning differences
Regarding the official framework curriculum of Berlin, the essential tasks and objectives of achieving the targeted language competencies in the subject English are described as follows:
Der Aufbau und die Förderung einer individuellen Mehrsprachigkeit (Muttersprache plus mindestens zwei Fremdsprachen) ist [...] eine der wichtigen Aufgaben der Berliner Schule. (Rahmenlehrplan Englisch 2006: 9)
According to these objectives multilingual language acquisition is highly recommended to develop intercultural ability. Nevertheless, the specific needs of pupils with migration background are largely excluded from educational considerations and also PISA showed that the school achievements of students with migration background are on average below the results of native students:
Jugendliche aus Familien mit Migrationshintergrund – insbesondere solche Familien, die als tägliche Umgangssprache eine andere Sprache als Deutsch verwenden – bleiben im Durchschnitt deutlich unter den Kompetenzniveaus, die 15-Jährige erreichen, deren Eltern beide in Deutschland geboren wurden. Das gilt nicht nur für die Lesekompetenz, sondern - teilweise verstärkt - auch für die anderen Lernbereiche. (Kultusministerkonferenz, 2002: online, 5)
Looking at this result provided by PISA one could argue that fostering individual multilingualism by imposing the necessity of learning a third language (English) on already bi- or even plurilingual pupils with migration background may result in adverse learning effects since those pupils already struggle with the acquisition of language competencies like reading literacy in their second language. Yet, it is stated by the Bundesministerium für Bildung and Forschung that a plurilingual environment is not necessarily a barrier to high school performances for example if pupils exhibit high language competencies in their home as well as in their school language (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, 2006: online, 52). Nevertheless, according to this institution, the use of another home language may have negative effects on the learning progress of those pupils in certain circumstances.In volume 19 in the series “Bildungsforschung” these circumstances are for example the combination of low language competencies in the official school language on the part of the pupils, and both a lower level of education on the part of parents as well as the parents’ lack of language skills to help and support their children in educational or linguistic questions (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, 2006: online, 52). Thus, high or low school performances in language learning are less dependent on multilingualism or language itself but rather caused by other factors as linguistic researchers like Britta Hufeisen maintains.
In her factor model (Hufeisen, 2008: online, 4-6) she specifies factors that build the foundation of language acquisition. According to this model, the L1 is only influenced by neurophysiological factors like the learner’s general language acquisition capability or his/her age, and learner external factors like the learning environment and the type and amount of input, whereas the L2 language acquisition is affected by the same factors and additionally by affective (motivation, learner type, life experience etc.) and cognitive factors (language awareness, learning awareness, learning strategies) as well as linguistic factors (here: L1). Since monolingual L2 learners have no experience in acquiring a further language, Hufeisen states that those pupils “must be regarded as completely inexperienced” (Hufeisen, 2011: 213). L3 acquisition on the other hand, according to Hufeisen, is affected by the same neurophysiological, learner external, affective, and cognitive factors as well as linguistic factors (here: L1 and L2) as the acquisition of L2 is, but furthermore by foreign language specific factors. These include for example individual foreign language learning experiences and strategies, which is why, according to Hufeisen, L3 language learners “can be regarded as more competent foreign language learners because they have access to their experiences in learning L2” (Hufeisen, 2011: 213). These experiences and strategies are also decisive aspects for Hufeisen to come to the conclusion that “subjective theories about language learning [...] make the L3 learning process easier” (Hufeisen, 2011: 213) because the learner’s “approach to L3 learning is more systematic and analytic than someone learning an L2” (Hufeisen, 2011: 213).
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Nevertheless, by understanding the third language learning process as a systematic and analytic procedure, it seems that Hufeisen disregards the possibility that bilingually raised pupils do not necessarily pass the process of learning L1 and L2 one after another. Bilingual or multilingual pupils who for example grow up speaking two languages simultaneously in an informal environment and possess equal proficiency in those, can be seen as speakers of two L1’s. Thus, they experience the formal process of learning a third language for the first time. This case would imply a lack of the foreign language specific factors mentioned in Hufeisen’s factor model. For that reason the target language English (L3) would consequently be the pupils’ L2. Nevertheless, Hufeisen’s thesis is that all language elements are involved when it comes to foreign language acquisition (Hufeisen, 1999: 5). This means that the linguistic factor which includes the pupils’ entire language repertoire comes into effect when learning a third language. So far, Hufeisen’s thesis is also applicable to pupils having two mother tongues. Her factor model, however, can not be fully applied to these pupils since the foreign language specific factor can not be taken into account. Individual foreign language learning experiences and strategies can not be activated (Hufeisen, 1999: 5) for the acquisition of a further language since the pupils have not developed those strategies in formal foreign language learning processes. Thus, it can be said that learning an L3 is easier than learning an L2 when the acquisition of the first and second language was developed systematically and chronologically and when foreign language specific factors are given. This leads to the conclusion that children with migration background have better preconditions of achieving the desired individual multilingualism successfully when they experienced the second language learning process consciously and in a formal environment.
But what happens when the previous L2 language learning experiences and used strategies of current L3 learners were neither positive nor successful? Well-developed second language skills are, as the PISA results show, not always given when teaching a class with a large number of pupils who have another home language than German. And what happens when Hufeisen’s model is not applicable in its entirety? For example in the case of pupils who have been raised with two mother tongues and who have never experienced the conscious acquisition of another language.
Concerning this matter it is important to emphasise the interaction between acquired languages. Hufeisen, for example, sees an influence of linguistic factors on language acquisition. Whereas the acquisition of L2 is influenced by L1, learning a third language is influenced by L1 as well as by L2 (Hufeisen, 2008: online, 6). When it comes to pupils who acquired two mother tongues simultaneously in an informal environment, this is applicable only partially. Thus, an extension of this thesis is necessary. Making this extension is possible by including Cumming’s interdependence hypothesis which furthermore states that the acquisition of L2 is not only influenced by the L1, but rather that the level of the development of one’s first language functions as the basis one’s second language level can achieve. This means that, “if the L1 is not sufficiently developed when education in L2 begins, this will lead to low levels in L2” (Rauch, 2014: 202). This hypothesis, which is mainly used to describe the influence of the level of the first language on second language acquisition, is expanded by Elsner. She attributes the prerequisite of successfully learning an L3 also on the level of development of the learner’s L1 (Elsner, 2009: 6). Thereby, it is now also possible to take into account the third language acquisistion of pupils who have two L1’s, since the significance of well-developed mother tongue skills becomes obvious here. In order to support the bilingual potential of third language learners and to strengthen their L1 skills, methodological approaches have been developed which support the idea of including the learner’s mother tongue into foreign language teaching in order to draw the language learner’s attention to certain language structures and to create a comprehensive awareness of language. One of these concepts will be presented in the following subsection.
. Language Awareness – The concept
Managing an efficient handling of the pupils’ already existing language knowledge in order to acquire further languages like English needs a comprehensive concept for the purpose of language teaching. One of these concepts, called Language Awareness (LA), has been developed in the 1970s in Great Britain. First, it was developed as a mother tongue based “movement which aimed at creating curiosity about language in school children” (Penz, 2001: 104). Later on, during the 1990s, this concept has been adopted more and more to the field of foreign language teaching and its methodology.
In general, Language Awareness can be defined as “explicit knowledge about language, and conscious perception and sensitivity in language learning, language teaching and language use” (ALA – Association for Language Awareness, no date: online). The development of this awareness comes into being when the mother tongue is recognized and internalized in contrast to the language taught (Schmid-Schönbein, 2001: 55). Accordingly, the LA concept, amongst others and according to Baker and Prys Jones (1998: 628), aims at:
* making the students’ implicit first language knowledge explicit,
* the establishment of an active acceptance of lingual diversity and variety,
* strengthening lingual analytical skills (e.g. language system, structure and use),
* fostering an awareness of verbal action in a sociocultural context to promote “better relationships between ethnic groups” (Baker and Prys Jones, 1998: 628).
In order to achieve these goals, it was suggested to establish five domains of Language Awareness (Baker and Prys Jones, 1998: 632):
. The affective domain, which affects the students’ emotional side by inter alia forming certain attitudes and developing sensitivity.
2. The social domain refers to the relationship between sender and receiver for the purpose of a social harmonization by fostering an understanding of language diversity.
3. The power domain deals with the critical approach of texts by sensitising the learners to the awareness that language can be used as a tool to inform but also to manipulate, and finally aims at fostering a social and political awareness.
4. The cognitive domain aims at the pupils’ intellectual penetration of the language system including its categories, rules and patterns.
5. The performance domain describes that the knowledge of how language works also affects the learner’s language performance for the purpose of an improved efficiency and proficiency.
The advantages the LA concept offers for the use in a multicultural classroom that includes L3 learners who may already struggle to manage their second language acquisition can hereby be described as follows: First of all, the domains mentioned above interact with each other, which means that the concept of Language Awareness does not only restrict language acquisition on the sections grammar and vocabulary, but can rather be seen as a holistic approach to foster a fundamental linguistic understanding. Thereby, language awareness “involves reflection about language, encouraging curiosity about language itself, [and] an exploration of language” (Baker and Prys Jones, 1998: 628). Raising the awareness of linguistic processes by making the pupils’ implicit knowledge about language explicit may hereby have profitable effects on the ongoing process of learning English as L3 as well as a strengthening effect on the pupils’ development of their mother tongue skills. Secondly, the concept does “not focus on just one language but include[s] many languages that can be compared to one another and to the school language” (Hélot, 2012: 220). Thus, it integrates all languages known by the students and their entire linguistic repertoire into the process of further language acquisition by respecting the crosslinguistic interaction and influence between languages learned. The approach of appreciating and integrating the pupils’ first language and their bilingual potential for the purpose of giving an opportunity to compare the target foreign language to the specific mother tongue is also part of the official curriculum framework (Rahmenlehrplan Englisch 2006: 51) and aims at strenthening the pupils’ language awareness. And finally, it fosters “an understanding of linguistic diversity and positive attitudes towards multilingualism” (Hélot, 2012: 220) which is needed to fulfill the framework curriculum’s target of developing and promoting an individual multilingual competence. How this concept can be integrated into the multicultural EFL classroom will be examined in the following subsection.
. Practical examples
Fostering language awareness needs to be built on the basis of stimulating interest and motivation in order to teach particular learning contents. This excitement and motivation can be stimulated by integrating the pupils’ mother tongue and therefore their linguistic knowledge into the lesson for the purpose of drawing comparisons between their home language and the target language English. Especially when teaching grammar sections, this procedure can prevent the common rejection towards these topics. A possibility to introduce the simple past could therefore take place as follows:
After starting the section by telling the pupils an anecdote about what happened in the teacher’s life (here, it is necessary to use certain time expressions to emphasise that the event took place in the past), it is necessary to introduce the sentence structure of the past which is Subject + main verb (simple past) + object (e.g. I went to the cinema yesterday.). When this structure is clear, the process of integrating the pupils’ linguistic knowledge can begin. By breaking down the sentence into its word order structure and integrating their linguistic knowledge about their mother tongue’s structure, it is possible to make a direct comparison between the different languages the pupils can speak. One pupil after the other is asked to tell the class which word order a sentence has in their mother tongue. A potential panel painting could afterwards look as follows:
English: I went to the cinema yesterday.
subj. verb preposition obj. adv. det. of time
German: Ich ging gestern ins Kino .
subj. verb adv. det. of time preposition obj.
Turkish: Ben _ dün sinemaya gittim .
subj. adv. det. of time object + preposition obj.
By creating awareness regarding these differences it is not only possible to reflect about language and explore it expediently, it is also possible to make the pupils’ implicit knowledge about certain linguistic structures explicit and to consolidate their knowledge about the differences between their already learned L1 (and also L2) and the target language English. Furthermore this method triggers the pupils’ cognitive processes by penetrating the language system of their L1 as well as their L3 regarding certain rules and patterns.
Another activity aiming at fostering awareness of verbal actions in a sociocultural context can take place by letting the pupils work with proverbs of different cultural countries of origin. The activity is supported by using the method Think-Pair-Share to ensure a cooperative learning process as well as an intellectual exchange of ideas. The Think-phase is hereby carried out in individual work, the Pair-phase in group work and the Share-Phase in a plenary sitting. The pupils’ first task within the Think-phase includes to think about a certain proverb they know in a language other than English, but in either their mother tongue, their second language or – if further languages are known – in their L3, L4 or Lx. After choosing a proverb and writing it down, the Pair-phase is started by forming groups of at least three pupils who do not necessarily share the same cultural background. In their group, the pupils first share their results by introducing the proverb they chose and explaining its meaning to each other. Afterwards, the group has to decide which of the proverbs they want to examine in detail. After having chosen a proverb and in order to present their results to the class, the group has to answer specific subquestions chronologically and record the results on a poster. To ensure the chronological order being adhered, numbered envelopes with one work instruction each could be used. The four work instructions are as follows:
1. Write down the proverb you chose in its original language.
2. Write down the meaning of the proverb in short sentences.
3. Make a literal/direct translation of this proverb into English.
4. Research: Find the English equivalent to your proverb and write it down.
A potential poster made by pupils who chose a German proverb could afterward look as follows:
1. Das schlägt dem Fass den Boden aus.
2. Describes an exclamation of expressing one’s outrage.
3. That kicks out the barrel’s bottom.
4. That takes the biscuit.
A potential poster made by pupils who chose, for example, a Turkish proverb could by contrast look as follows:
1. Acɪ patlɪcanɪ kɪrağɪ çalmaz.
2. Expresses that something or someone can not be damaged or harmed.
3. A bitter aubergine can not be stolen / harmed by dew.
4. Bad weeds grow tall.
After creating the posters the Share-phase begins. Now, the pupils have to introduce their results in front of the class. While presenting, the other groups are asked to take notes on the question “If you would use the presented proverb in the group’s literal translation, would it cause any misunderstandings when talking to a native speaker? Why?” in order to stimulate a discussion after the presentation. The discussion hereby functions as a possibility for the pupils to verbally express their impressions about the proverbs presented, to actively reflect on language, to become aware of linguistic varieties and to enter an intercultural exchange. The literal translation furthermore fosters the pupils’ understanding that language has specific characteristics as for example figurative meanings which can partially lead to misunderstandings between its speakers if a formulation is unknown to one of them. Furthermore, the fact that a message’s content sometimes needs to be deduced from its context is emphasized. The use of proverbs also provides insights into the cultural integration which language can offer. Considering the example dealing with the Turkish proverb and its use of the word aubergine, it becomes obvious that when it comes to old proverbial sayings the use of certain words is more representative for some regions (here more likely for the Mediterranean region) than for others.
By making all these cultural and linguistic differences openly accessible to the pupils, the social and performance domain of language awareness is targeted. As a result, it is possible to develop the sensitivity for the different cultural related use of language. Furthermore, it is possible to foster the knowledge that different languages can express the same content by using different terms and phrases. Additionally, by letting the pupils elaborate the English equivalent to their proverbs, their knowledge about the target language English is strengthened because new vocabulary and phrases together with their meaning are learned.
This paper aimed at presenting possibilities for EFL teachers to systematically develop the target language English in multicultural classes. A specific reference was made to L3 learners. Studies like PISA have shown that especially children from bilingual backgrounds deliver poor test results in their L2 (German) regarding language competencies like reading literacy. Nevertheless the main goal for the subject English is set to be the formation of individual multilingualism. To fulfill this goal and to integrate the specific needs of L3 learners, the LA concept was suggested as a means to teach a foreign language comprehensively.
It was shown that this concept is able to foster a fundamental linguistic understanding by combining the five domains of Language Awareness whose interaction aims at the transfer of a comprehensive knowledge about language. By examining language in an analytical and critical way, pupils are trained to understand language in its entire system including its categories, rules and patterns and its sociocultural context. Furthermore, a great potential to transmit and strengthen new knowledge about the target language English lies in the direct and crosslinguistic comparison of languages. The learners’ entire linguistic repertoire is taken into account to stimulate an explicit awareness of their knowledge about languages and also to work towards an improvement of the pupils’ language skills and the understanding of the new subject matter. In addition, an appreciation of the pupils’ already existing linguistic knowledge can also stimulate the learners’ motivation.
Two different examples were used to show how to integrate this concept into English teaching. The first aimed at explicitly supporting a grammar unit. By carrying out a direct comparison between different languages, the pupils’ mother tongue was integrated into a specific exercise for the purpose of sustainably teaching the structure of the simple past. The second example was recommended to foster awareness of verbal actions and their meaning in a sociolinguistic context. The comparison between proverbs from different origins and languages aimed at creating awareness and sensitivity regarding a cultural related use of language. It also aimed at fostering an awareness for language specific characteristics like figurative meanings which can possibly cause misunderstandings between speakers. Additionally, this activity can be seen as a good possibility of extending the pupils’ linguistic repertoire in the target language English by working with new phrases in detail.
Both examples made clear, that the LA concept offers manifold applications for the EFL classroom. Being aware of the concept’s versatile possibilities and its potential to foster the pupils’ English skills can be a step towards fulfilling the curriculum framework’s goal of building up an individual multilingualism in multicultural classes. Nevertheless this concept should not only be applied in foreign language lessons to improve the pupils’ L3 skills, but rather interdisciplinary to strengthen the learners’ L2 skills by including the knowledge about their mother tongue into individual learning processes.
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 Regarding the third language learning process of these pupils, Hufeisen seems to generally consider a second language learned as a formally learned L2 instead of taking two informally learned mother tongues into account.
 adverbial determination of time
 The research can be done by using the Internet if the classroom provides the necessary technical equipment. If there is no technical equipment, the activity should be started by offering a variety of proverbs in the languages the pupils know (Think-phase). During the Pair-phase, texts about the meaning and the English equivalents of these proverbs should be provided.