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In this subject, students explore some of the ways in which language is actually used in context in different cultures. The emphasis is on understanding and describing how people actually make use of the language and how this impacts on communication and miscommunication, particularly between native speakers and learners of a language. Some of the theoretical and practical issues in the investigation of authentic language use are tackled and the practical implications for teachers, language curriculum developers and others involved in interactions with people from other cultures are explored.
Transcript of my interview with my Department Head at an International (IB) School.
Ms. Osborne: Hmmm. I do not think that the school administration will support your initiative to allow students to talk in their mother tongue during the Chinese class. Our school has always had a strict English only policy and speaking in other languages has always been forbidden.
Me: I understand that Ms. Osborne. I find that students often lapse into their mother tongue when involved in group activities in the Chinese class when talking to other students who speak the same language. They are just so excited and happy and involved in the activities while doing talking in their own mother tongue, and I find that I am reluctant to spoil their enthusiasm by enforcing the English only rule. There is a lot of research in multilingual education to support the use of mother tongue for learning new languages. I will email you links to some of this new research.
Mr. Osborne: Ok. I look forward to reading those. I think the idea of encouraging students to showcase their Chinese language class activities in the school assembly is brilliant.
Me: Yes, they do get rather fired up about putting on these shows!
Ms. Osborne: And of course, when students come up with Chinese programs, other students will come up with programs in the languages they are learning too and the school assembly will become a truly multicultural event. That is really a welcome initiative.
Me: If you remember during my tenure there, my students put up shows once in Gujarati and another in Korean, inspired by the event in Chinese. The Gujarati dance was rather well appreciated.
Ms. Osborne: Oh yes, I do remember the rather colourful group dance that was performed then! It would be a good idea to have such events in all the different languages of the world. Students would learn a lot about different countries over the years.
Me: Yes, Ms. Osborne!
Ms. Osborne: I also like the idea of multilingual landscapes in the school. I remember the Chinese signs you had put up for Chinese week while here. The Chinese lanterns and Chinese decorations your students had made then were excellent.
Me: Do you think it is feasible for the linguistic landscape of the school to go multilingual in a permanent way.
Ms. Osborne: Well, the school may not agree to create permanent bi-lingual signage for two reasons. One is of course, the issue of which language would they choose and the second would be the cost. This is just not a feasible policy change for the school. We are an international school and want to encourage multilingualism. I am not sure bi-lingual signage using the local language spoken here is in any way related to the school vision and mission.
Me: Yes, I understand.
Ms. Osborne: However, encouraging student projects and allowing temporary bi-lingual signage to be used in different languages – the language to be used and the duration the signage will be up will be decided by the school management, is doable.