Teaching students in a language other than their language may create a learning issue in students. I still remember, When I first visited the upper Chitral region last year (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan) many students were not even familiar with their national language, i.e. Urdu. It was an immense learning opportunity for me. However, it taught me that every achievement has its first beginning. Even though literacy is central to students’ educational and career success, it can be one of the most thought-provoking things for students to develop. When it comes to developing countries like Pakistan, the literacy issue is among students rises when they migrated from their traditional classrooms, where instructions are in their primary language, to the new or foreign context where language and practices are not familiar to them.
Many students around the world are culturally and linguistically, and due to the globalisation, these multilingual learners face real challenges as they endeavour to learn rigorous academic content and prepare for college and careers. Similarly, students who are studying in farthest rural areas where they have been taught in their regional or native languages might face challenging if they want to pursue their education in an Urban context where subjects are mainly taught in English.
How will you, as a teacher, handle such a challenging situation for a multilingual student who is had trouble in their studies merely because of language issues? Following are some tips which I learn and implement in my classroom from a book called Multilingual Learners and Academic Literacies: Sociocultural Contexts of Literacy Development in Adolescents (2015) by Daniella Molle et al.
- Identify that all students bring something to the learning situation and that multilingual learners have knowledge, skills, capabilities, and sympathies that can be leveraged and built upon
- Remember that the growth of academic literacies and learning depend on all four modalities of listening, speaking, reading, and writing; so, provide opportunities for students to practice and use these language modalities while learning academic content
- Interactions help students make meaning, to offer regular opportunities for student-teacher and peer interactions that have a clear purpose related to specific learning goals
- Exercise is essential; so, provide regular opportunities for students to practice and develop both their language and their understanding of the content. Such training could be an individual activity or with peers. And, such practice should have clear goals and feedback that will help student learning and achievement
- Provide examples that give students the opportunity to participate with and comprehend both content and language. Examples include real-world examples that are language rich and reflect relevant content, as well as media-based examples (e.g., blogs, videos).
- Identify that errors can provide useful information — understand patterns of errors that reflect general challenges or issues for students
Share your thoughts and experience of teaching in the multilingual classroom in a comment below.