Every day can be International Mother Language Day!
The multilingual turn: transforming your classroom into a garden of languages
The primary classroom is a hub of creativity, it is the place where children discover something new every day, where they build relationships, form opinions and reflect on the world that surrounds them.
Schools are often the truest representation of the diversity of our neighbourhoods. Linguistic diversity is therefore the essence of most primary classrooms in Ireland. It is our duty as adults to be led by children’s natural curiosity towards what is new and different and to show them how to embrace every language and culture in our environment.
Children who experience multilingualism soon realise that there are many ways to talk, many ways to look at the world and many ways to communicate verbally and non verbally. The classroom is the ideal place to show children that all languages are important. In Ireland, the Primary Language Curriculum embraces this concept and emphasises the opportunities that teachers have to use the entire linguistic repertoire of a child.
What does it look like in practice?
This sounds like an exciting prospect in theory, but other curricular priorities sometimes take over, meaning that bilingual children rarely have the opportunity to use their family language at school. Is there a tried and tested approach that teachers can use right away?
All our work at Mother Tongues is aimed at dispelling myths around multilingualism. Some people believe that teachers may need to do extra work or training to implement multilingual approaches or they need to be confident in foreign languages. This is far from the truth!
However, we do acknowledge that it takes a little shift in mindset and some adaptation to embed all languages in the day to day routines. We also know that teachers have many pressures associated with curriculum delivery, and this new approach may seem daunting at first.
This is why we have produced a series of videos aimed at sharing the experience of teachers (watch the video) and we host an interdisciplinary community of practice open to anyone who wants to welcome multilingualism in their setting. What we learn time after time in this community of practice is that there is no right answer, but rather many approaches that we can try, test and share with one another.
Our Language Garden
The moments shared with this wonderful community have compelled us to want to celebrate International Mother Language Day with teachers and children all over Ireland this February. We chose the theme of the Language Garden to show the importance of nurturing languages like growing flowers. The more diverse the range of flowers, the more colourful the garden!
I am sure that you will want to get involved now! Download this toolkit for instructions and check out the hashtag #OurLanguageGarden to see what other schools are up to!
Happy International Mother Language Day celebrations from all of us at Mother Tongues!