Speaking in (mother)tongues

f8f1cc3949.jpg;pv0fb2f615727529fbWeek 2 of #TeacherTuesday saw Natalee from Honduras discussing the issue of multilingualism in the classroom and the effects of language and learning styles not being catered for.

Honduras has the greatest divide in basic reading achievement in children in Central and South America. The cause of this divide is primarily due to language barriers and restrictions. The main language spoken on the mainland of Honduras is Spanish while English is primarily spoken on its outlying Bay Islands.

Natalee teaches on the Bay Islands and points out that language and ethnicity are deeply intertwined, it is not merely a language barrier that exists in this teaching environment but also culture and religion. ‘Some chant, some are more evangelistic, some appreciate connections with the ground and Earth’ Natalee incorporates the latter into her lesson plans by counting seeds in maths or studying local coral reefs in science.

Natalee says ‘A multicultural, multilingual classroom needs multiple modes of teaching.’  Teachers need to respond to the children making up their classroom and integrate that response into their teaching methods, she told us; in other words, ‘placing the child at the centre of the process.’

With this pupil-centric, inclusive methodology, Natalee succeeds in encouraging diversity among her students and dispelling myths that ‘if you speak a particular language, you are less important than others’, with a tolerant and inclusive approach to culture, language barriers can be overcome through participation and co-operation.

94% of majority language-speaking children were able to attain basic literacy while only 62% of minority language children achieved the same minimum level. Unfortunately, dropout rates are also correlated with minority languages and poverty. Poor students who speak a minority language were among the lowest scorers in means-standard testing and 84% of the richest young people will go on to finish secondary education compared with only 10% of the poorest.

2015 is Honduras’ ‘Año de la Inclusión’, year of inclusion. It is evident that inclusivity and harmony are vital if we are to see teachers helping pupils overcome cultural and language barriers and deliver quality education for every child around the world.

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