Angelica Galante opened her talk with a question that I’m all too familiar with, “Where are you from?” Said with a particular intonation, one tends to ponder over its intention. Students want to adopt the behaviours and language of the host culture, particularly in the tertiary setting when they are away from their home countries for prolonged periods of time. Galente was interested in whether plurilingual identities could be promoted instead of a focus on acquiring an ‘English’ identity.
The rationale for plurilingualism is that bringing the diverisity of the real world into the classroom prepares the learners for that real world. Plurilingualism considers all the language and cultural experiences people have had in their lives. Galente suggested that people’s lives were not like a pre-fabricated puzzle that you live with one language or one culture so even when you may think you are monolingual, you may in fact have a plurilingual identity.
Some of the benefits of plurlilingualism include the following:
Enhances metacognitive skills (Bono & Stratilaki, 2009; Psalter-Joyce & Kantaridou, 2009; Vorstman et al., 2009)
Has positive effects on motivation and self-esteem (Bernaus, Moore & Azevedo, 2007; Corcoll, 2003)
Awareness of individual plurilingualism is seen as an asset for communication (Marshall & Moore, 2013; Prasad, 2014)
Mediates the process of additional language learning (Payant, 2015)
Learners who speak 3 or more languages are more open-minded, have more cultural empathy (Dewaele & von Oudenhoven, 2009), and
Plurilingual posture towards language learning (Jeoffrion et al., 2014)
In ELT, practices such as an English-only classroom have hampered plurilingualism. Some of the other barriers include:
Plurilinguals are unaware of their full plurilingual potential (Oliveira & Ançã, 2008)
Plurilingual ESL teachers have more positive attitudes towards their students’ language learning process and plurilingual strategies compared to monolingual teachers (Ellis, 2013)
Lack of teacher education in plurilingual pedagogy (Ellis, 2013); teachers who are unaware of learners’ linguistic repertoire see their plurilingualism as an annoyance (Pauwels, 2014)
Gap between policy that promote plurilingualism and classroom practice (Göbel & Vieluf, 2014; Pickel & Helót, 2014; Pinho & Andrade, 2009)
English-only policies create barriers for classroom plurilingual practices (Abiria et al., 2013)
Galente recommended strategies such as translanguaging, code-switching and crosscultural awareness to build language & cultural awareness, validating identity, agency and inclusiveness. She described several tasks to achieve this.
- My plurilingual identity: Students draw their own body placing languages and cultures they have learnt on different parts of their body. Students can also include their future languages or cultures which intend to learn or experience. Students then explain their rationale.
- Code-switching: Students work in groups of three and come up with a situation where they code-switch. They prepare a one minute skit. Their peers try to identify the type of code-switching (from one sentence to another or mid-sentence), the languages/dialects used, the reasons why they code-switched.
- Idioms in different languages: Students try to figure out the meaning of an idiom and then identify an equivalent idiom in their first language or dialect.
- High and low communication styles: Students are presented with different scenarios and they decide if they would prefer to use a direct or indirect utterance. Students develop an awareness of the characteristics of the two styles and reflect on how people in their own lives communicate and how they could adapt to a style that’s different from their own. They then discuss situations where they had issues communicating with people with different styles and they get peer feedback on how they could deal with this.
Galente studied the impact of tasks that promote plurlilingualism in a university context and found that the results were positive both from a student as well as an instructor perspective. She believes that students have started to shift from trying to camouflage their identity to accepting their pluri-identities.
More information on this project is available at Galente’s site.
Living as I do in a super-diverse country where plurilingualism is the norm, I’ve always wnated to try out code-switching with my learners but have never been able to identify an appropriate and manageable way of introducing it. These are some interesting task types but there’s only one that explicitly requires students to use L1. Galente mentioned ten tasks types in her research – I’m going to write to her and see if she can share any others.