31 SES 03, Monolingual Habitus / Multilingual Realities. Research for the Mobilisation of Multilingualism in Education: from Classroom to Career Transitions (II/II)
In France, as in many other countries (OECD 2013), policy-makers and schools are still failing to give plurilingual children the support they need to fully realize their potential. Insufficient knowledge of bi/plurilingual development is leaving many educators feeling ill-equipped to work with these children and consequently to continue to practice policies (Spolsky 2004) which ignore individual linguistic repertoires and adhere to a monolingual vision of the world. Furthermore, pressure to meet French National Curriculum objectives which prioritise mastery of the national language is leading many teachers to focus exclusively on the learning of French, mistakenly fearing that any additional languages, including children’s home languages, will interfere with this process (Mary & Young, 2010; Young 2014). However, research has shown that not only do children perceive and integrate the value attributed to their languages (Cummins 2003; Moons 2010), but that there is a strong and positive relationship between academic development in the language of the school and that of the home (August & Shanahan 2006). Yet the evolving multilingual school population and the staunchly monolingual school habitus frequently continue to co-exist independently in mutual ignorance. This juxtaposition of the multilingual and monolingual worlds is apparent in the pre-school context where families accompany their children into the classroom and the pre-school teacher, particularly in the first year of formal education, is strategically and powerfully placed to foster connections between languages, cultures, home and school if s/he so chooses. Given the potential impact of teachers’ practiced language policies in the classroom, we decided to investigate the policies of one teacher in her reception class of 19, mainly plurilingual children (aged 3-4 years), during the course of one school year. We were specifically interested in the ways in which she facilitated the children’s transition from home to school, how she mediated the different languages in the classroom and with the families, which practices she implemented to help the children build their French language skills and the effect these practices had on the children’s learning and on their general well-being. In this paper, we will focus on how the teacher has transformed the normative, ideologically monolingual space of the French pre-school classroom into a multilingual, safe space (Conteh & Brock 2011) where children and parents are free to use the languages of their choice to support their well-being, learning and personal development.
August, D. & Shanahan, T. (2006). Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners, Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth. New Jersey: Centre for Applied Linguistics. Conteh, J. & Brock, A. (2011). ‘Safe spaces’? Sites of bilingualism for young learners in home, school and community. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 14(3), 347-360. Cummins, J. (2003). Challenging the construction of difference as deficit: Where are identity, intellect, imagination, and power in the new regime of truth? In: Trifonas, P. (Ed.) Pedagogies of difference. London, Routledge. OECD (2013). PISA 2012 Results: Excellence Through Equity: Giving Every Student the Chance to Succeed (Volume II). Paris: OECD Publishing. Moons, C. (2010). Kindergarten teachers speak: Working with language diversity in the classroom. MA, McGill University. Mary, L. & Young, A. (2010). Preparing teachers for the multilingual classroom: Nurturing reflective, critical awareness. In S. Ehrhart, C. Helot & A. Le Neve (Eds.) Plurilinguisme et formation des enseignants : Une approche critique. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 195-219. Spolsky, B. (2004). Language policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Young, A.S. (2014). Unpacking teachers’ language ideologies: attitudes, beliefs, and practiced language policies in schools in Alsace, France. Language Awareness, 23(1-2), 157-171.
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