Monthly Archives: November 2015

Multilingual education and language-in-education in Southeast Asia

The Multilingual Education Working Group and Recent Language-in-Education Policy Developments in Southeast Asia – Kirk R.Person at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Kirk is a Thailand-based linguist focused on minority language issues. He is associated with SIL International and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Thailand

Kirk is a Thailand-based linguist focused on minority language issues. He is associated with SIL International and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University,
Thailand

What is Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE)? Speaker Kirk R. Person associated with SIL International and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Thailand, explains that it is an education system where learners’ mother tongue is used in the classroom as a bridge in learning L1 and L2.

Person talks about the sandwich method of teaching and cites an example from Thai classroom:

  • Layer 1: A teacher briefs the learners about the aims of the lesson and explains key concepts in mother tongue
  • Layer 2: The lesson progresses in Thai
  • Layer 3: The teacher engages the students in discussion in mother tongue.

He also spoke about how communities can frame curriculums for their children and that a gradual shift from L1 to L2 can be achieved by a progressive syllabus where L2 is taught in a similar way to L1. He talked about exposing learners to L2 first by making them listen, following by speaking and finally by reading and writing. This is contrary to the more traditional style where children are taught the alphabet before they are able to understand or use the oral language.

Person says that research has shown not only that learners in MLE schools achieve more than in mono-lingual schools, but also that this could be a way towards reaching an inclusive environment in classrooms and bringing about social harmony. Communities can become more integrated and empowered within the wider civil society. Despite globalisation and the onslaught of English, several East Asian countries such as Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand have recently developed language in education policies which are supportive of the right of children to receive early education in their mother tongue.

Watch his session at the 11th Language & Development Conference here:

Also watch his interview

Post by: Ruchi Jain
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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Medium of instruction, literacy and educational equity in Almaty high school students

Medium of Instruction, Literacy and Educational Equity: Survey of Almaty High School Students – Juldyz Smagulova at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Juldyz Smagulova is an Assistant Professor at KIMEP University, Kazakhstan

Juldyz Smagulova is an Assistant Professor at KIMEP University, Kazakhstan

Anyone who grew up speaking a language at home which was different from the national language of the country, which was not the same as the regional language of the state and which certainly not was the medium of instruction in their school, can identify with the issues faced by learners in Almaty.

In the 11th Language and Development Conference, presenter Juldyz Smagulova spoke about the challenges faced by learners in Kazakhstan. She showed a world which hoped to shake off the shackles of Russian domination in the former capital city of Almaty by making Kazakh compulsory and introducing English in school.

In her research, she and her colleague Elise Ahn surveyed 2,954 students in 29 state schools attempting to explore the relationship between language of instruction and students’ aspiration. She is hoping that empirical data will help to inform the policy making process in her country.

In a city where Russian-medium school learners are faring better than Kazakh-medium school learners, the government aspires to have 25 per cent of its citizens as fluent speakers of English – this leads to issues of equity, quality and accessibility in education in Kazakhstan.

Judlyn also stressed that teacher-training was an important area that the policy makers need to pay closer attention to. She said “we have the resources but we need know how to teach”. In an anecdote that she shared with the audience, she relayed that a Russian-speaking friend of hers wanted to learn Kazakh and after spending a week with a private tutor she claimed that she still had not made any progress. The tutor replied, “Kazakh is sitting inside you, it will wake up soon”.

Watch her session at the 11th Language & Development Conference here:

Post by: Ruchi Jain
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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Women, English and empowerment: voices from rural Bangladesh

Women, English and Empowerment: Voices from Rural Bangladesh - Sayeedur Rahman at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Sayeedur Rahman is Associate Professor and Teacher-in-Charge of English language in the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Sayeedur Rahman is Associate Professor and Teacher-in-Charge of English language in the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

“English allows me to be powerful.”

In a monolingual country, the women in rural village, 40 Km away from the capital city of Dhaka, want to learn English because it makes her confident and enables her to voice her opinion in family. This belief stands in tall where sometimes a husband does not allow his wife to access computer in their home.

The session by Sayeedur Rahman from Bangladesh, told tales of five women in a village called Dhamarai. The ethnographic study revealed stories of women who work in garment factories, schools and Small and Medium Enterprises.

The study revealed perception and beliefs of these women about English and its impact on their lives. It was found that in the microcosm where English is little used, the urge to learn English is strong because it is felt that it would enable them to get better jobs and communicate with people from across the world and participate in world economy.

The issue that could possibly be deeply looked into would be the interpretation of the concept of empowerment by these rural voices.

Post by: Ruchi Jain
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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Debate: ‘EMI does not bring the benefits that people expect’

Debate: The motion for debate is ‘EMI does not bring the benefits that people expect’ at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

From left to right: Hywel Coleman, Baela Jamil, John Knagg, Lizzi Milligan and Nigussie Negash Yadete

Debating team included (from left to right) Hywel Coleman, Baela Jamil, John Knagg, Lizzi Milligan and Nigussie Negash Yadete

So why EMI? Four speakers with experience of different countries argued for against the motion. Baela Jamil stressed the degree developmental growth and the delights of aesthetics in regions such as South Asia have been accomplished through regional languages – not English. Hywel Coleman gave examples of how the imposed use of English as a medium in subjects including mathematics and chemistry may limit student creative expression, dumb down content and lead to complete incomprehension by students The children’s eyes sparkle when their language is used………….but use of English has huge negative impact. The audience provided a number of examples of stigmatisation resulting from imposition of EMI.

Maybe we need to separate the English medium and educational issues. To Lizzi Milligan, in many EMI contexts, teachers are not trained, textbooks assume proficiency above student levels and curricula are overloaded. But this is not the problem of EMI but are wider quality issues which we need to tackle. Negussie Negash from Ethiopia, a country with English as a medium of instruction since 1944 emphasised the inherent usefulness of English: art has its own language but how do you sell your art to the speaking world?

And a final vote? A resounding draw.

You can watch the debate here:

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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Multilingualism: a viable strategy to forge national harmony and social cohesion?

Multilingualism: A Viable Strategy to Forge National Harmony and Social Cohesion? A Sri Lankan Case - Thaiyamuthu Thanaraj, Chandra Gunawardena and M.B.Ekanayake at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015


Given Sri Lanka’s tangled (and now hopefully resolved) history of ethnic friction, it’s easy to see why a multilingual approach is essential. Throughout the conference, bilingual and trilingual policies had been discussed (including, in the Day 2 plenary, what looks very much like a monolingual policy in the United Kingdom) but it’s easy to forget that when countries embark on these policies, it’s not just a matter of legal implementation but also raising the multilingual language proficiency of government employees.

This session described just such a project as in Sri Lanka, although bilingualism may be quite frequent in the street, it is not in government offices. Government personnel speaking Singhala and Tamil learnt each other’s languages and although their final proficiency was limited, the experience was motivating, led to more social contact and an interest in each other’s cultures, probably emphasising that there is more to language learning than just a final score. A final thought, and an intriguing question raised by the speaker: if you teach A B’s language and B A’s language, which language do they converse in when they meet?

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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The African Storybook Project

The African Storybook Project and its impact in Nepal and the Global Community - Bonny Norton and Mary McKenna at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Bonny Norton is a Professor in the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Research Advisor to the African Storybook Project. Mary McKenna is Director of the Nepal Education Support Trust.

From left to right: Bonny Norton is a Professor in the University of British Columbia, Canada, and Research Advisor to the African Storybook Project. Mary McKenna is Director of the Nepal Education Support Trust

Despite Grandmother’s warnings, the child went ahead on trying to find out how bananas ripen, with rather disastrous consequences: just one of over four hundred stories collected together for use with learners by the African Storybook project. The project emphasised the need to reflect aspects of children’s real lives and to enable them to construct meaning in supporting developing reading skills in less literate societies (although just as true, I guess, in literate societies too). The aim of the project throughout is to be child-centred and a vital focus of engagement.

Stored digitally, the stories (accompanied by some fantastic illustrations) were initially translated into over fifty African languages but the project has now expanded globally to include languages such as Arabic and Cantonese. For once, it’s Africa which is contributing to the flow of ideas rather than being the recipient of them.

The audience questions were as thought-provoking as the presentation. We discussed the cultural references in the illustrations, how the resources could be integrated into mainstream teaching, how the resource will be received in cultures print is and how the project could be monitored and evaluated. All tough questions in an increasingly multilingual, digital world…….

Watch Bonny and Mary’s session here:

Watch the interview with Bonny Norton here:

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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Language and inequality: English for all or enabling a multilingual economy?

Language and Inequality in India: English for All or Empowerment of Indian Languages? - Anuradha Kanniganti at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

 

In the midst of debates around medium of instruction, concerns about disappearance of multilingual languages, ineffective language policies, and dealing with inequalities arising from multilingualism by promoting ‘a’ common language, Anuradha Kanniganti focused on a pragmatic approach that focuses on establishing links between languages and economic development. This approach could not only enable the revival of local languages but also narrow the gap between English and opportunities.

Anuradha proposes a shift in focus from ‘English for all’ to empowering local languages for better economic performance. She pressed on the fact that economic dimension of language is a relatively neglected aspect in language advocacy. Hence it is important that research is conducted to explore the link between languages and socio economic development, and find out opportunities available in different languages for people to look forward to. If we enhance the capacity of local languages to perform various aspects in economic development, we are better likely to deal with the ‘Language catastrophe’ that we are facing and linguistic diversity can then turn into an asset rather than a liability.

She expressed that politicians traditionally have been least interested in promoting local languages. Hence we need to present solid fact based and figure based arguments to push politicians to consider the language catastrophe seriously The governments are more likely to be convinced about creating opportunities in multi languages if we talk to them in terms of ‘cost benefits’ rather than in the sense of ‘rights’. Also the organizations need to be more ‘enlightened’ in accepting the reality and make arrangements to accommodate the presence of multilingualism. Language should not become a barrier when it comes to contributing to the economic growth of a country and an attitude of ‘We somehow manage’ should change. Role of local languages should be seen in terms of technical functions and industrial use rather than mere ‘Cultural tag’.

The stimulating presentation was followed by equally stimulating responses and questions from the audience. The discussion highlighted the need for making the courses, curriculum, and assessment available in local languages, informing the people about their linguistic rights and fighting for the same and the role of governments in contributing to changing the gloomy scenario. The audience seemed to be echoing Anuradha’s sentiments that discrimination due to languages is as ridiculous as caste discrimination. People need to come together to bring a language revolution.

 

Post by: Manisha Dak
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in North India

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Book launch: language and social cohesion in the developing world

The book ‘Language and Social Cohesion in the Developing World’ – edited by Hywel Coelman and published in Colombo jointly by GIZ and the British Council was formally launched at an event during the 11th Language & Development Conference in New Delhi on the 18th of November. The book launch was followed by a panel discussion highlighting issues around language and social cohesion in various contexts from various perspectives and describing strategies to deal with some of these issues. The panel consisted of some of the distinguished authors, Sasanka Perera, Thaiyamuthu Thanaraj, Hywel Coleman, Francis Thevanesan Croos, and Bonny Norton.

From left to right: Bonny Norton, Thaiyamuthu Thanaraj and Hywel Coleman

From left to right: Bonny Norton, Thaiyamuthu Thanaraj and Hywel Coleman

Hywel Coleman, the editor of the book focused on the importance of social cohesion and education in the current context. He highlighted that freedom to become educated in one’s own language is a human right but that the existence of legislation in favour of language rights guarantees nothing. He stressed the importance of involving the people concerned while forming language policies.

Bonny Norton, the reviewer of the book appreciated how the book deals with most of the issues around language and social cohesion in various contexts that we are currently trying to address.

From left to right: Session chair Debanjan Chakrabarti with Francis Thevanesan Croos, Sasanka Perera

From left to right: Session chair Debanjan Chakrabarti with Francis Thevanesan Croos, Sasanka Perera

How English has created two nations in the country of Sri Lanka was effectively brought forth by Professor Thanaraj, sharing the results of a recently conducted survey. According to the survey results, one of the key factors that plays a key role in learning a language is self-motivation. Mere parental force does not go a long way. In addition, Sasanka Perera highlighted that people are encouraged to learn English not out of ‘emotional interest’ but economic interest.

When asked by one of the members of the audience whether the learners can own the language, Bonny Norton interestingly portrayed how it would help democratise English if we freed it as being defined as a language owned by native speakers. English is a part of global and cosmopolitan identity. Teachers need to help learners realise that language can be used creatively in different contexts and does not need to be standard English all the time. She suggested that a hybrid model would work better, wherein learners are encouraged to see for themselves where the different forms of English can be appropriately used.

The recording of the the book launch can be viewed below:

The book can be downloaded from the Language and Development conference website for free.

Post by: Manisha Dak
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in North India

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Languages and their different roles in multilingual Africa

Multilingualism, Marginalisation and Empowerment in Africa with Special Reference to Southern Africa: Dynamics, Good Practices and Paradoxes - Sozinho Francisco Matsinhe at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Sozinho Francisco Matsinhe is Executive Secretary of the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), a body of the African Union Commission

Sozinho Francisco Matsinhe is Executive Secretary of the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), a body of the African Union Commission

16 of the 20 most linguistically diverse countries in the world are in Africa and so it is fitting that many of the talks at this 11th Language and Development Conference are discussing issues relating to multilingualism and development on this huge continent. Sozinho’s talk aimed to do two things: make statements about what we know and secondly look at how we can push the frontiers of research related to multilingualism, marginalisation and empowerment, focusing primarily on Southern Africa. He highlighted the use of language as a window to culture and its function for building bridges between people and communities – especially important given the broad mosaic of languages in Africa. He challenged the notion that colonial languages dominant communication, indicating that there are multiple other languages of much greater importance to people’s day to day lives – the languages people use to dream, to cry, to share stories and to tell jokes. However, he also recognised that these colonial languages dominate official discourse, and so therefore do lead to exclusion. Sozinho’s talk will be available to watch soon on our YouTube channel.

The recording of the the his session can be viewed below:

Featured speaker Sozinho Francisco Matsinhe’s interview is available below:

Post by: Amy Lightfoot
The writer is the Assistant Director English Partnerships – Academic Quality Assurance at British Council India

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Empowering non-dominant languages and cultures through multilingual curriculum development

Empowering non-dominant languages and cultures through multilingual curriculum development - Carol Benson at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Carol Benson is Associate Professor, International and Comparative Education (Language focus) at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, New York, USA.

Carol Benson is Associate Professor, International and Comparative Education (Language focus) at Teachers’ College, Columbia University, New York, USA

Carol began by stressing that the emphasis on using languages that learners understand dates all the back to the 1950s but dominant languages are still seen by the powerful as modernisation delivered through mass education. She described the monolingual habitus or a self-conception that makes people blind to multicultural lifeways – for example, literacy rates are reported without mentioning which language they refer to.  How can we reflect this in syllabus and curriculum design? How can we determine competencies, decide on language specific aims and appropriate methods and assessment?  We cannot for example plan for student fluency if teachers are not fluent – and this will involve decisions about teacher training and teacher placement.

Carol described the Basque experiment in Spain where systematic simultaneous teaching of non-dominant Basque, dominant Spanish, English and French is proposed at entry point – one audience member added that students learning in Basque rather than Spanish might even achieve higher results. In Mozambique, demand for multicultural education exceeds supply. We need decisions about the match between languages and content: which languages are to be used for which topics? We need to help publishers see that simply putting a non-dominant language in print reinforces its status.

Watch the recording of featured speaker Carol’s session here:

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

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