A New Language Friendly School: Welcome to Salto-School Floralaan!

[Lees dit artikel in het Nederlands]

Congratulations to the newest member of the Language Friendly School Network, the SALTO-school Floralaan in Eindhoven! The school principal, Arabella Ganzeman, said she already noticed how happy and enthusiastic the children were, just by seeing the language friendly decorations that were put up by the team. The SALTO-school Floralaan is the fourth certified Language Friendly School, an initiative of the Rutu Foundation. They will be joined this month by three other SALTO-schools in Eindhoven and by the Optimist International School in Hoofddorp.

Meanwhile, one of our first Language Friendly Schools, the St. Janschool in Amsterdam, was recently featured in Didactief, a popular journal for teachers in the Netherlands.

A Language Friendly Sauce

“Multilingualism is a strength” is the main credo of the St. Janschool, a public primary school with 446 pupils in Amsterdam-West who received their Language Friendly School certificate in 2019. Didactief interviewed the vice-principal Dieneke Blikslager and had a look inside the school. An excerpt of the interview is provided in English.

What are you doing differently as a Language Friendly School?

‘Parents are free to speak their home languages with their children and we pay special attention to this during our lessons. There are still schools which prohibit the use of other languages than Dutch, but that means you cut the bond between parent, child and school. Research shows that the mother tongue helps to learn Dutch.’

How is multilingualism featured in the lessons?

‘Our main goal remains learning the Dutch language of instruction, but pupils are allowed to do assignments in the so-called language of preference. We do make agreements about that. It’s fine doing a paper in Egyptian but with a translation in Dutch. And if pupils want to discuss ideas in their mother tongue during the math class, they can. We trust that they talk about the content and we tell them this. We also work with language buddies: twenty minutes per week, a number of pupils who speak the same language, voluntarily get together to talk and to read. This way, they see that they are not the only one speaking a different language. This is especially important for young children. They shouldn’t keep quiet because they think something is wrong with them.’

How do you involve parents?

‘We invite parents to come to school and read in their preferred language with their child, one on one. And all students, both multilingual and monolingual, receive word clusters – images of words – to take home and discuss them with their parents. This makes it easier to discuss them together at school. Multilingual children will make the link between the two language registers in their head: so-called translanguaging. It means they start understanding concepts at a deeper level. If, for example,  you don’t know that this is called a ‘kopje’ (mug) in Dutch, and you also don’t know what it is in your home language, then we have more work to do than if we just have to translate the word ‘kopje’.’


What do colleagues say?

‘That children exude more confidence when they are allowed to use their own language. Recently, I showed some parents around who came from Mexico. They had brought their three year old son. I asked the kindergarten teacher if she had a Spanish speaker in the classroom and she called a little boy who started explaining everything in the classroom in Spanish. The teacher was surprised and said: “he is always so shy. I see a completely different child now.”‘


What is your advice for schools who want to get started with multilingualism?

‘You don’t need to change anything about your education system, you just need to add a language friendly sauce. The first step is to get to know the background and the different languages of your pupils. As a teacher, show that you are interested, for example by asking about it and regularly talking about it. Then you can let children choose for which assignments they want to use their mother tongue.’

Read the entire article by Didactief here (in Dutch only).


The Language Friendly School: A Leading Innovation in Bilingual Education

The Language Friendly School is highlighted as one of ten leading innovations in bilingual education by HundrEd.org. Join us in the celebration of this at the Helsinki Education Week, 3 Nov  at 13.00h (CET). Register here to attend this webinar and learn more about Language Friendly Schools.