Multilingual environments: benefits for early language learning
Since the mid-1990s, Scoil Bhríde (Cailíní), a primary school in the suburbs of Dublin, has experienced an unprecedented increase in the level of linguistic and cultural diversity in its pupil body. This paper explains how, in responding to this new phenomenon, an integrated approach to language learning was developed in the school in cooperation with teachers, pupils and parents. The school’s language policy had two overarching goals:
- To ensure that all pupils become proficient in the language of schooling
- To exploit the linguistic diversity of the school for the benefit of all pupils
Welcoming the plurilingual repertoires of all learners involves the inclusion of home languages in curriculum delivery, and the classroom procedures that facilitate family involvement are described in the present article. The extent to which all languages of the school community are equally valued in light of this programme are examined, including the Irish language, language awareness, and learner autonomy. Issues arising from this approach to linguistic diversity are discussed in addition to implications for practice, policy and further research.
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