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By Denise Dentfreelance education consultant, Race Equality in Education

The Literacy Framework can be a useful learning tool for bi- and multi-lingual children, but reinforcing it with targeted and focussed support right across the curriculum can unlock often unexpected potential – Denise Dent explains

Children jumping

The population of England and Wales in the 21st Century is increasingly bi- or multi-lingual. According to CiLT, the National Centre for Languages (2006 report Positively Plurilingual), more than 1 in 8 children in our schools has at least 2 languages.

In an increasingly connected, globalised world, the facility to operate in more than one language has to be an advantage, to the individual and to the nation as a whole. It isn’t always seen as such however. For many mono-lingual teachers, the presence of another language is sometimes seen as a problem, an interference, as if somehow there is only room for one language in anyone’s head at any one time – tell that to the 75% of the world’s population that is fluent in at least 2. This perception is probably a by-product of English becoming a world language, along with the tedium of the boring French or Latin classes of previous generations where we conjugated verbs and constructed meaningless sentences no-one would ever use.

But languages are meant to be spoken and listened to; to be the means of communication and expression; to be the tools of the mind, the emotions and the imagination. No one learns their first language from a grammar book. Language is learned in a context, from other speakers of that language, and is used with purpose and focus. Children growing up bilingual in this country, being taught English and through the medium of English, need the same language-rich, supportive and challenging environment as monolingual English speakers learning English.

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