A Plurilingual Approach to Language Education: Observations From the Japanese Classroom

A Plurilingual Approach to Language Education: Observations From the Japanese Classroom

Carl Vollmer, Benjamin Thanyawatpokin
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5846-0.ch006
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English education around the world is moving in a communication-based and task-oriented direction. Plurilingualism principles state that non-native language varieties should be used in the classroom along with encouraging students to freely mix and code switch between languages in order to facilitate communication from the students and raise motivation to use language. The suggestions for language classrooms include welcoming the students' home language into the classroom, actively encouraging students to use knowledge of other languages besides English or the student L1, and focusing on preserving the flow of conversation by allowing students to mix languages freely when speaking. The authors provide several snapshots of how they utilize plurilingualist principles in their own classrooms. Classrooms that are included in the snapshots range from high school to an after-school elementary student program for teaching English. While the observations come mainly from EFL classrooms in Japan, the hope is that the suggestions can be applied in classrooms in other countries.
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An Overview Of Plurilingualism

What Is Plurilingualism?

At its heart, plurilingualism is simply a term developed to describe a method of language learning in a world where languages, some from countries close by and some from countries on the other side of the world, could all interact in the same classroom. Plurilingualism is differentiated from multilingualism in the relationship of languages known by a learner. According to Piccardo (2013), multilingualism focuses on the quantity of known languages without paying much attention to the relationship between each language, while plurilingualism encourages a dynamic relationship in which all languages and cultures build on each other to facilitate learning. Definitions of the term and methods to integrate concepts into classrooms appear to differ from country-to-country; however, promoting communicative competence in one language without neglecting other languages, be it the main language of the region or other minority languages, is a shared ideology. Coste et al. (2009) describe plurilingualism as a way of building communicative competence while “promoting linguistic and cultural pluralism” (p. 9). That is, building or maintaining knowledge of other cultures or languages while simultaneously learning about another (possibly second or third) language. In fact, as Silver and Bokhorst-Heng (2013) explain, plurilingualism is “interactive, dynamic, and tak(es) into account multiple varieties” (p. 614) of communication, cultures, and identities. In essence, plurilingualism creates a classroom where language and cultural overlap is facilitated when dealing with communicative competence.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Immersion: A language learning method that entails exposing learners to the language for extended periods every day.

Language Ownership: The feeling of “owning” a language. In other words, feeling that one is a legitimate speaker of a language and not merely a learner.

Inner-Circle: Countries in the world that have a traditional base in English. Historically and traditionally, English is used in these countries. Examples include England, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

Multilingualism: An approach to language learning that encourages the learning of several languages at the same time. However, each language is treated individually and overlap between the languages is limited.

Native Norm: A level of language competency and linguistic structures which could be described as of a native or near-native level.

Expanding Circle: Countries where English is learned and treated as a foreign language. In these countries, English is considered a tool which is needed to communicate in a global environment. Examples include Japan, South Korea, and Brazil.

Outer-Circle: Countries where English is treated as an important second language and is used in vital institutions. However, a different language is still considered as the “main” language. Examples includes India and Singapore.

Plurilingualism: An approach to language learning that incorporates multiple competencies in different languages working in tandem to promote learning.

Code Switching: A term referring to switching languages during normal conversational discourse.

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