Multilingual Classrooms

Since the 1950s a compelling body of evidence has been accumulated to demonstrate that supporting children in their mother languages in school leads to better educational and social outcomes, including better and faster learning of the main language of host countries.

Yet, examples of bilingual or multilingual curricula, leveraging the benefits of mother tongue support, are few and far between.

Instead emphasis has been placed on ensuring that migrant children master the official language to the detriment of their home languages.

As a result, millions of children are following lessons in a language they do not speak at home and there continues to be a large gap between educational results of many migrant children, both first and second generation, and those of their native peers.

The fact is that multilingual classrooms are the reality today, especially in urban areas. In the past 10-15 years, new approaches have emerged, which demonstrate that it is entirely feasible to overcome the practical challenges to multilingual education that are often highlighted as show stoppers.

With exciting results: students’ self-confidence grows, they remain interested in learning, they develop multilingual abilities, stay in school longer, and stand a greater chance of fulfilling their educational potential. Enabling them to make greater contributions to the societies in which they live.

Translanguaging is a powerful new pedagogic strategy to incorporate children’s home languages into the classroom and builds on what they already know. 


More information

To find out more on multilingual classrooms and translanguaging, see our publication on Multilingualism and Education (Meertaligheid en Onderwijs) and a  European Commission -report co-authored by Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman, Rutu International Advisory Board Member. More books and articles can be found in our Library.  A collection of videos is available on our You Tube channel