It’s been eight years since I wrote my first post about International Mother Language Day. It doesn’t seem like very long, but over that time there has been a shift in many areas, towards a more positive attitude about language diversity in schools.
When I first started working with families in 2004, it was common to hear stories of children being told not to speak their languages at schools. This led to children who no longer wanted to use their parents’ languages – they were embarassed at being different. I also met many parents who had chosen not to use their own language with their children, as they didn’t feel it was ‘as good as’ the school/community language.
This pressure to conform, linguistically, definitely still exists, all over the world. If you are speakers of a lower-status (immigrant, minority) language, there will be people who think you should not use your language. There will be children who don’t want to use their parents’ languages, who just want to be like everybody else.
But over the years I have started hearing more positive stories, and seeing more evidence of a new interest in linguistic inclusion in schools. I see wonderful examples on Twitter everyday of schools not only celebrating, but also encouraging and planning for, integration of students’ home languages. For interested parents, I’ll put links to my favourite Twitter profiles below.
The progress that I see in many schools is of course not representative of all areas. There are still many places where children are forbidden to use their own languages in school. This happens all over the world, including in international schools. We all, parents, teachers, academics, need to continue to amplify the message that children have the right to use their languages as a critical part of their identity and as a resource for learning.
Here are some teachers/schools leading the way on excellent practice with multilingual learners: