In multilingual schools the range of learners’ first languages is wide. This means that the language taught in the majority language (ML; "mother tongue") classroom is L1 or mother tongue for only a few learners and, therefore, even the majority language is being studied within a plurilingual environment. Indeed, all the learners in the classroom are plurilingual, as they learn many foreign languages in school and master different varieties of their first language (e.g. dialects, hobby-related registers and language-use typical to certain communities they belong to). These languages and varieties do not exist separately in people’s cognition but they are all part of the same linguistic repertoire. We should not, therefore, ignore learners’ proficiency in various languages in majority language classroom. Languages need to be seen as situated resources that learners draw on when using a language for a particular purpose. All language teaching should enhance learners’ individual and multilayered language repertoires and support the development of a holistic linguistic identity.
The primary aims of majority language teaching is to equip learners to cope with the cognitive and academic demands of the school and future life in the majority language, and to give access and knowledge about its literary and cultural heritage. However, the point of plurilingual education in the majority classroom is that it (a) enriches this experience with other heritages and traditions,and (b) that it is the way in which allophone learners are going to relate their own experience and therefore identify with the language of the school as a subject, so that all the learners' experience of it becomes fuller, and (c) that this will make learning more effective in reaching its primary aims.
When developing majority language teaching towards a more pluralistic approach, the key issues are:
- How to develop learners’ plurilingual repertoire and intercultural competences?
- How to embed a plurilingual approach in the ML curriculum and integrate it with other learning contents?
- How to enhance productive cooperation and shared vision between teachers of different types of languages (majority language, foreign languages, second languages, first languages)?
- What kinds of approaches can be used for developing learners’ language repertoire in the majority language classroom?
- How does teacher education need to be developed in order to prepare teachers to practise more inclusive, plurilingual approaches?
This project aims to move away from prevailing monolingual approaches to majority language teaching and teacher education, instead promoting an enriched view of educational possibility. The pedagogical view of the project perceives diversity as potentiality, rather than deficiency. The project builds on the work done in the Marille (http://marille.ecml.at/) and Carap (http://carap.ecml.at/) projects which focused on the knowledge, skills and competences needed to be developed in promoting plurilingualism in multilingual settings.
The project focuses on majority language teacher education and aims to provide concrete tools and study modules based on plurilingual approaches and building collaboration between language teachers and language subjects. It is a special challenge for the project to convince also teachers with doubting attitude or no prior experience of the benefits of plurilingualism in the ML classroom.