20 SES 11, The Impact of Migration on Learning
Parallel Paper Session
The considerable population mobility observed nowadays across Europe, enhanced by the financial recession and facilitated by the free-movement policy of the European Union, has rendered European countries increasingly multicultural. This multicultural composition of European countries is reflected in their schools which host a large number of immigrant students. The educational achievement of these students which will, in turn, determine their prospects for social advancement in the host country, is highly dependent on their proficiency in the dominant language. Given the written nature of school exams, the language skill likely to play a crucial role in their academic attainment is writing.
Writing, especially in the early years of schooling, poses significant challenges for pupils as it constitutes a skill which is learnt rather than naturally acquired (Kress, 1994). Also, writing as performed at school, encodes a register, namely the school register, which differs in important respects from the more familiar to the children conversational language (Gibbons, 2006; Schleppegrell, 2004). These challenges place an additional burden on immigrant pupils who need to develop competence in the school-based written register while learning a new language (Verhoeven, 1997). The situation becomes even more complex for those immigrant children who take up residence in nonstandard-speaking communities. In such communities, oral communication is carried out via a non-standard variety which is, to a certain extent, structurally distant from the standard variety typically employed in written communication. Given that linguistic variation is the norm rather than the exception in the contemporary world, with non-standard varieties existing alongside standard ones in the same geographical area, this paper will expose and discuss the writing challenges which this situation poses for immigrant pupils. This is an area which, to date, has received scant – if any – research attention.
The study was carried out in Cyprus whose sociolinguistic circumstances aligned with the sampling requirements of the study. In particular, Cyprus is a bidialectal community as two genetically-related linguistic varieties, a standard and a non-standard one, exist alongside each other. The standard variety, namely Standard Modern Greek (henceforth SMG), is the medium of written communication and is employed in formal contexts (e.g. education, media), whereas the non-standard variety, namely the Greek Cypriot Dialect (henceforth GCD), is normally used in everyday informal conversations (Papapavlou, 2001; Yiakoumetti, 2007).
Apart from being bidialectal, Cyprus is also increasingly multilingual as it hosts a large non-Greek population originating mainly from the former Soviet Union and the European Union (Hadjioannou, 2006).
What renders Cyprus an interesting setting for studies on non-mainstream students, is the existing discrepancy between the language policy implemented in schools and the linguistic reality on the island; even though Cypriots’ mother tongue is GCD, the language of education is SMG. The source of this discrepancy is ideological and lies in Greek Cypriots’ “strong identification with Greece and the Greek culture” (Karyolemou, 2001: 38). This has given rise to the monodialectal orientation of the Cypriot language education, which does not only affect the Cypriot pupils, but also the numerous non-Cypriots enrolled in Cypriot schools.
Gibbons, P. (2006). Bridging Discourses in the ESL Classroom: Students, Teachers and Researchers. London: Continuum. Hadjioannou, X. (2006). Linguistic Variation in Greek Cypriot Elementary Education. In W. Wiater, & G. Videsott (Eds), School Systems in Multilingual Regions of Europe (pp. 395-413). Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. Karyolemou, M. (2001). From linguistic liberalism to legal regulation: The Greek language in Cyprus. Language Problems and Language Planning, 25 (1), 25-50. Kress, G. (1994). Learning to Write (2nd ed.). London: Routledge. Papapavlou, A. N. (2001). Mind Your Speech: Language Attitudes in Cyprus. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 22 (6), 491-501. Schleppegrell, M. J. (2004). The Language of Schooling: A Functional Linguistics Perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Verhoeven, L. (1997). Sociolinguistics and Education. In F. Coulmas (Ed.), The Handbook of Sociolinguistics (pp. 389-404). Oxford: Blackwell. Yiakoumetti, A. (2007). Choice of classroom language in bidialectal communities: To include or to exclude the dialect?. Cambridge Journal of Education, 37 (1), 51-66.
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