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Embracing multilingualism

28 January 2020


By Liliane Bodenmann - Head of World Languages

How do we articulate our learning principles of being intercultural learners and global citizens through languages at St. George’s?

Do we “encourage all learners to bring their whole self, identity and background to each learning experience”? Do we consciously “nurture the contribution of every learner to the richness and diversity of our community”?

St. George’s is a truly international learning community, where multiple languages intertwine: the majority of our students learn in two languages and have a third, and often a fourth, language in their repertoire.

There is no culture without language. Thus, embracing the richness of a diverse community also means recognizing and nurturing our multilingual school setting. We cultivate multilingualism and view it as a valuable asset. It is unarguable: St. George’s is more than a bilingual school. Our students are multilingual learners.

As inquirers and collaborative learners, students in our classrooms explore and develop ideas in various languages, often beyond the school main languages of instruction. Capitalising on the students’ languages, culture and knowledge has a positive impact on the community in its entirety.

It’s a fact: English has become the lingua franca of our globalized world. For both social interactions and more demanding cognitive tasks, the English language belongs to all. What is fascinating to observe is that “translanguaging”, or switching between languages in order to maximise communication, is starting to be acknowledged, valued and recognised. How many times have we used more than one language in our interactions with friends, family or other members of the community without even noticing it?

There is abundant research and evidence about the cognitive and practical benefits of knowing and using more than one language: beyond the ability to communicate and acquire knowledge in more than one language, students develop adaptability, confidence and well-being. Promoting the educational benefits of multilingualism as a key tool in today’s world is imperative.

Everything starts with a positive and growth mindset: learning to learn in other languages is a skill that needs to be nurtured as a process and a long-term commitment. Let’s not be afraid of the unknown: Exposure to content in another language combined with patience and willingness to learn leads to learning.

Embracing multilingualism means enhancing our opportunities to connect, to lift our eyes in order to look further and higher; it ensures that we are well prepared to effectively navigate in our dynamic and international world.

 

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