Spreading the word

As I am engaged in a process of “re-branding” English Language Learners as Multilingual Learners in my school, I need to be proactive and take every opportunity I have to spread the word of this new terminology – to all stakeholders. Continue reading “Spreading the word”


A little bit of politics


Can multilingualism save the world? The notion sounds farfetched, but if an organisation such as the United Nations, no less, cites multilingual education as a way to help achieve their Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, then maybe its not such an outlandish claim. Continue reading “A little bit of politics”

Teaching students about what it means to be multilingual

I was aware of a vague background noise in my classroom. A slight anxiety that students had, voiced through comments such as, “I wouldn’t be able to do this in Chinese”, or “I don’t know how you say this in Korean”. I decided that it was time to dedicate some class time to exploring with my students what it means to be a multilingual learner. Continue reading “Teaching students about what it means to be multilingual”

How many mother languages do you have in your classroom?

February 21st is the day that UNESCO celebrates “mother languages” around the world. They take the opportunity to promote multilingual education precisely because of the kind of benefits that I detailed in my previous post. They recognise that providing learners with a multilingual education broadens their horizons and that, in turn, can help UNESCO to achieve their Sustainable Development goals.

development-goalsSo, let’s take a moment to celebrate everyone’s mother language. Ask a student to teach you a phrase in their language. Ask them to teach each other. Enjoy the enormous linguistic and cultural wealth that surrounds us every day.


What’s wrong with being an English Language Learner?

I’d be the first to admit to being a language learner. In fact, I’ll freely admit that I’m also an English Language Learner – just a bit further along that road than my students. So why would I rather my students weren’t labelled as English Language Learners? Continue reading “What’s wrong with being an English Language Learner?”

So, define multilingual

For many people, their image of a multilingual person may be a glamorous, jet-setting diplomat, someone who feels comfortable in any number of settings and languages. Or a third culture kid whose childhood is spent on three different continents, for whom starting a new school in a new country is a familiar challenge and an opportunity to rack up another language.

If we turn to the Cambridge Dictionary of English, we find that a multilingual person is someone “able to use more than two languages for communication”. So anyone who is able to communicate in two other languages in addition to their first language is multilingual. Important: nowhere in the definition does it say that you need to be fluent in those languages. Continue reading “So, define multilingual”

Nobody likes a label

At certain times in my life I’ve been categorised. A cold Brit, who drinks tea on the dot of 5 o’clock and who has a higher moisture tolerance when it comes to the weather. Of course, I’ve been equally likely to categorise those I meet. “Oh, so you went to that school?” “Ah, one of your grandfathers is Sicilian, and the other is from the Basque Country – that explains it!”

If I stopped for a moment before opening my mouth, I would remember of course that categories cannot define a person. We are each made up of our unique experiences – an amazing blend of all the places we’ve been and all the people we’ve known. So, why are we happy to define students in our schools with labels? Continue reading “Nobody likes a label”