Members of Plurilingual Lab presented three research papers at the American Association for Applied Linguistics conference, in Atlanta GA, March 9–12. Check out their papers:
Examining translanguaging as pedagogy for vocabulary development: A mixed methods study with multilingual EAP students in a Canadian university, Angelica Galante
Addressing writer’s challenges in read-to-write tasks, Heike Neumann
Developing an implementing a new pedagogical framework: data from plurilingual action-oriented scenarios in North American language classrooms, Enrica Piccardo and Kimberly Cho (OISE/University of Toronto, Sara Potkonjak (York University) and Angelica Galante (Concordia University)
Check some highlights of the conference in our Facebook Page:
These are a few highlights of this year's AAAL conference in the city of Atlanta, US. Many presentations on plurilingual…
For example, in my own case I use five languages: Portuguese, Spanish, English and a little Italian and French. I was born in Brazil in a family with Italian and Spanish heritage, and learned Portuguese, the country’s official language, at school. Later, I learned English, followed by French after I moved to Montréal. In Canada, stories like mine are more common than we think.
To teach English in a way that acknowledges multiple languages in Canada, we need an approach that values and advances students’ existing language and cultural identities.
Plurilingual instruction is an approach that doesn’t discourage or shy away from using the learner’s primary language(s) when the new language is introduced. Plurilingual approaches seek to move beyond monolingual approaches, focused on the target language only.
A plurilingual approach can be taken to teach any new language. But in particular, my research has led me to focus on how plurilingual approaches to teaching English could change students’ experiences of language learning.
Using more than one language is not uncommon in Canada, particularly in metropolitan areas such as Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver where switching and mixing languages for different purposes is part of everyday life.
Canada is multicultural in addition to being multilingual. Cultural diversity is not only represented by immigrant cultures but also by diversity within Indigenous, anglophone and francophone groups. After all, these groups are both linguistically and culturally diverse in the sense that not everyone who speaks the same language and is part of the same cultural background speaks or behaves the same way.
But the way English language programs have presented teaching English to students doesn’t acknowledge the diversity of multiple linguistic backgrounds. The category “English as a second language” — so common now it is frequently shorthanded to ESL — ignores the fact that many students find themselves in my situation: they are, in fact, studying English as a third, fourth or fifth language.
Further, ESL programs often undervalue the use of more than one language to access information, communicate and use cultural knowledge in interactions with people from diverse backgrounds.
Benefits to students
In plurilingual language instruction, teachers focus on developing what linguists call a linguistic repertoire rather than the mastery of one language only.
Plurilingual instruction values the use of languages, dialects (or varieties of language) as well as cultural knowledge that students have developed throughout their lives; they build on this knowledge to further develop proficiency in the new target language.
For example, students learn strategies such as translanguating: when learning words in the target languages, they reflect on similarities and differences in other languages.
And, as the language learner’s confidence grows with switching between languages, this also develops the person’s ability and confidence to make language choices and manage language risks in socially and linguistically diverse social settings.
In my most recent study, I examined plurilingual instruction in comparison to regular instruction that emphasized one language only (monolingual) in a university English language program in Toronto.
I recruited seven teachers who taught the same program to 129 students but used different approaches.
After four months, students who received plurilingual instruction reported it was beneficial for the development of cognition, linguistic and cultural empathy, relatability, critical thinking and willingness to learn more languages, among other benefits.
All of the teachers in my study showed preference for plurilingual instruction and reported that it challenges cultural stereotypes and encourages students to be active, engaged learners who are empowered and confident with their own language use.
While more research is needed to confirm these results, future research could also be done in classrooms where French is taught as the official language, or where any languages are taught to help our understanding of benefits of plurilingual instruction.
Concordia University’s Department of Education welcomed Dr. Sunny Man Chu Lau as the second presenter in our Plurilingual Lab Speaker Series on November 15, 2018. The talk entitled Affordances of plurilingual pedagogy for critical literacy engagement in second language classrooms gathered a roomful attendance by department professors and students in the Applied Linguistics (MA, PhD) and TESL (BEd) programs, friends and family. With a review of her three most recent research studies, Dr. Lau summarized the affordances that plurilingual instruction offer in engaging second language students towards critical literacy.
Though languages do not exist in a vacuum, traditional monolingual and grammar-oriented pedagogy persists in second language classrooms. Language programs and curricula often strictly enforce a target-language-only policy in the hopes of achieving native-like grammatical competence, much to the disservice of their students. To that end, Dr. Lau illustrated how theoretical and empirical evidence invites us to reflect about the following:
Texts—by virtue of the language in which they are written—are positioned and positioning; they serve to express the writers’ perspectives and to situate the readers within this point of view.
Language learners and speakers are then subjected to the process of interpellation—they are constantly called to confront, accept, or refute messages with which they are bombarded.
In Second Language Acquisition, we should always remind to ask ourselves, on behalf of students, why they’re learning something and what they can do with language; in other words, since languages are intertwined with lived experiences, language gains in the classroom should be as important as real life social practice.
In plurilingual pedagogy, language is learned and used in meaningful ways. Language students can then be social agents inside and outside of the classroom, while the teachers can guide students, who become co-researchers in such social explorations.
This process shifts the notion to position students as knowledge experts, which has been shown to allow enhanced biliteracy learning in bilingual classrooms. Through theme-based approaches that contextualize language learning within the real world, peer translanguaging—where students are allowed to speak to each other and the teacher in a language other than the target—have been demonstrated to lead to three main areas:
1) reflection on abstract concepts such as othering or self-distancing and personal racial biases through their words and actions;
2) awareness of hidden concerns and perceptions about the target language, their peers, and their larger social circles;
3) intercultural understanding in the classroom, particularly in classrooms in multilingual and multicultural settings like Canada.
Plurilingual Lab’s members thank Dr. Lau for giving this talk. To our growing readers and followers, we hope to see you in our third talk in the Plurilingual Lab Speaker Series by Dr. Dianne Querrien on November 29th.
You’re kindly invited to Dr. Diane Querrien’s talk Relying on a Plural Approach to Support Teacher’s Adaptation to Plurilingual Settings on November 29 (Thursday), 5pm. This is a free event hosted by Concordia University’s Department of Education and Plurilingual Lab. All are welcome!
You’re invited to Dr. Sunny Man Chu Lau’s talk on Affordances of plurilingual pedagogy for critical literacy engagement on November 15, 5pm. This is a free event hosted by Concordia University’s Department of Education and Plurilingual Lab. All are welcome!