Language awareness is another teaching approach that is aimed at promoting multilingualism at school. It involves all the languages known by pupils: their native/home languages, foreign languages that are taught at school, other languages that are spoken in the area (such as dialects), body language and other forms of communication (such as Sign Language or Braille). This does not mean that teachers are expected to know and teach all these languages!
Language Awareness emphasises the fact that all languages have the same value.
Xuexue: I can speak English and Chinese.
Fatima: I can speak Arabic and French.
Marie: I can speak only French.
Being able to communicate in different languages is nowadays a great advantage, even when the children’s skills in one of the languages are limited. The ability to understand, speak, read or write something in another language is still useful.
The starting point for Language Awareness activities should be pupils’ language repertoires, that is the languages spoken by each student, which become a focus for reflection and learning.
To promote Language Awareness, teachers can:
talk openly about the different languages spoken by students;
Teacher: Different languages are important.
2. encourage children to think about different languages and compare them to discover differences and similarities;
Teacher: What are difference between French and Arabic?
3. stimulate positive attitudes towards all languages;
Teacher: Chinese is very interesting.
4. and ask students to think about the ways in which we use and learn languages.
Teacher: When do you speak French?
Activities that teachers can carry out in class could involve:
listening to recordings in different languages,
2. asking students to talk about their skills in different languages
3. and having pupils interview each other about their language repertoires.
Teachers should make sure that all the languages spoken by students are included in the curriculum without having to teach them in a traditional way. For example, signs and notices in different languages can be displayed in the school environment and resources (such as books) can be made available in different languages.
Group of children: At school we can speak our home language and learn many different languages!
Andreas: I’m happy, my school is multilingual!
Teaching approaches, such as Translanguaging and Language Awareness, make children who speak different languages at home feel welcome at school and comfortable when talking about their skills in these languages. By taking part in activities that promote multilingualism, students who speak only one language not only learn a lot about different languages and cultures, but also gain awareness about living in a multilingual society and an interest in foreign languages.