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Linguistics Assignment Question
Reflect on a school or institutional context that you are a part of and consider how it promotes gender and ethnicity, and encourages students to deploy the totality of their sociolinguistic repertoires. In your reflection, consider the linguistic landscape of the classroom/school/institution including the language use there the activities that individuals engage in, and the talk that occurs.
Identify the formal and informal unspoken policies at this school/institution and think about how the school or institutional language policy might change to embrace multilingualism and diversity and empower individuals within this school/institution while retaining its sense of place. Develop a set of ideas and initiatives to help promote multilingual identity in this place and provide rationales for these.
Write a 1000 word essay summarizing the current context and the set of ideas and initiatives that you would like to develop and the reasons for this. Your reasons should be supported by literature in the field.
Linguistics Assignment Solution
I have chosen to write about my extra-curricular duties in a full time teaching position with an international school where I was co-coordinator of the school Chinese Language after-school program for a year in order to reflect on the institutional context of sociolinguistic repertoire. The school had extra-curricular classes after school on two weekdays and all students were required to be part of two extra-curricular classes per week. The classes were of 40 minute duration and I had two batches of students taking this class once a week. The first was an elementary school group of students below 10 years of age and the second comprised of middle and high school students between ten and fifteen years of age. The class size was 15 and since it was an after school extracurricular program the class was multiage with students from different grades engaged in improving their Chinese through designing their own activities, within a flexible structure set by the teacher/co-coordinator. I find this institutional situation very suitable to study ways to develop multilingualism and diversity within the school and to empower the students there.
The aim of the program was to encourage the students to become proficient in an international language other than English. The students who participated in this program were from different ethnic backgrounds. There were a few students of Chinese origin making it easy for us to source Chinese customs, games and traditions for our classes. We had a group of Indian students speaking Gujarati in one group and a group of Korean students in the other group in addition to the main group of native speakers of English. We also had students of African, French and Spanish origin. The school policy was for students to only speak in English during school hours; speaking in their native tongue was forbidden and punished with detention. The school policy subscribes to the total immersion method (Stenson & Brondum, 2016) to facilitate students to master the English language. But the consequence of this policy was leading the students to “majoritarianism” (Malcolm, 2014). However, students were allowed to speak in Chinese in the after school class, speaking in the native tongue was still forbidden in the Chinese class. The school did not really promote ethnicity in their main or afterschool programmes.
The school subscribed to the multiple-intelligences model of education of Howard Gardner and as a result of my research I encouraged children to use music/dance/ nature, art and craft to learn Chinese (Bas, 2008; Gardner, 2003). Since the Chinese class was an after school, multiage class the ambience of our sessions was informal and we used a lot of Chinese music, dance and art and craft and games in our classes. These classes had equal number of girls and boys and girls seemed to enjoy learning Chinese arts, craft, music and dance. They boys were slower in adopting Chinese customs and costumes. The gender balance in this after school class was good and girls participated more enthusiastically in some of the Chinese cultural activities.
One of the initiatives I would take to embrace multilingualism and diversity and create more empowering situations for the students in my school would be to allow for use of mother tongue in the Chinese class (Education Sector Analytical and Capacity Development Partnership, 2015). I often found my students who were non-native speakers of English speaking in their mother tongue during the Chinese class activities amongst themselves, especially the group of Gujarati and Korean students.
The other initiative I would take to embrace multiculturalism in the whole school is to encourage the use of Chinese/ other languages in the linguistic landscape (Gorter, 2008) of the school by using bi-lingual sign boards and maps within the school campus. The school has a custom of celebrating weeks dedicated to specific regions in the world and one of the projects my students undertook for Chinese week was to make bi-lingual English-Chinese signs within the school campus and decorate the campus with Chinese lanterns, paper cranes and Chinese calligraphy etc for Chinese week.
The second initiative for promoting multilingualism and diversity in the school that I would like to undertake is to promote ideas from Chinese/ major cultures and languages around the world in the school assembly. The school has a weekly assembly on Monday mornings where students are encouraged to engage in public speaking and display their talents in music, dance or present any activity that they find interesting to the whole school. The presentations in the school assembly are usually in English. In the one year that I was co-coordinator of the Chinese language classes we often presented our work with Chinese music and dance or other Chinese traditions regularly in the school assembly. These presentations were very much appreciated and I feel that the school can promote multilingualism and multiculturalism by using the assembly time to educate the students on the diversity that is present around the globe in terms of language, culture and traditions (Wiese, et al., 2017).