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Linguistic Diversity In Schools: What It Means And Why It Is Important

Linguistic Diversity In Schools: What It Means And Why It Is Important

Linguistic diversity is getting threatened in many communities and schools as more languages disappear due to political persecution, lack of preservation, and globalization. However, preserving and protecting different languages is crucial in promoting sustainable societies and fostering respect and tolerance for others. Language diversity also helps transmit and preserve the traditional knowledge and cultures of multilingual and multicultural societies.

Because of this, local and international organizations are working together to preserve and promote language diversity in the community, and one initiative that was launched with this goal in mind is International Mother Language Day. This event has been celebrated worldwide every 21st of February since 2000 as a means to promote multilingualism and inclusion, as well as linguistic and cultural diversity worldwide.

This year, the focus is on the importance of linguistic diversity in the education sector. The 2023 International Mother Language Day theme, “Multilingual education – a necessity to transform education, ” emphasizes the importance of teaching based on the student’s mother tongue or first language.

Meaning And Impact Of Linguistic Diversity In The Education Sector

Ideally, children should be taught in their language for about five years before they gradually transition to a second language during their classes. Unfortunately, in many cases, children are forced to study a second language as soon as they start going to school.

This challenge is not limited to only small kids. Adolescents and adults who have transferred to a new country that speaks a different language are also faced with this language barrier. For example, non-English speakers who come to the US to live, work, or study cannot communicate properly with their teachers and fellow students, thus hindering their learning progress.

However, education authorities tend to consider it too expensive or time-consuming to use multiple languages in teaching, forgetting that the current approaches are not working so well and that the quality of education has not improved much over the years.

According to UNESCO, students’ learning ability improves when taught in their first language. This is because they can experience education in a familiar language, which helps bridge the gap between home and school. It also supports access and inclusion in educational institutions for people who speak non-dominant languages.

Thus, linguistic diversity plays a pivotal role in ensuring that everyone has access to quality education and promotes intercultural dialogue and cooperation. However, many schools still fail to recognize these important points. Even in several multilingual countries, the student’s mother tongues are different from the language of instruction. This creates a great divide and results in disadvantages for learners in mainstream education systems.

How To Promote Linguistic Diversity In Schools

The school administration and its students both need to play an active role in promoting linguistic diversity in the organization. Aside from recognizing the importance of each language spoken inside the campus, they should also take measures to make foreign-speaking students feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

Doing so will foster an environment of acceptance, inclusivity, and tolerance within the community. It will also help the students understand the curriculum better, thus helping improve the quality of education within the organization. Here are the possible steps that schools can take to promote linguistic diversity in campus:

  1. Identify Foreign Language Needs And Capabilities Among The Staff

Like the students, the staff and faculty members may have different language proficiencies that either need to be addressed or used. Those who are not very proficient with the primary language used in the school can be assisted and trained through educational translation services, while those who are familiar with more than one language can help bridge the communication gap during student activities or parent meetings.

  1. Establish A Buddy System

A student who is not proficient in the primary language in school may feel lonely, frustrated, or even ostracized. This will make it more difficult for them to assimilate with the school community and may likely hinder their learning progress.

Pair them with fellow students who are familiar with both languages so they won’t feel alone in school. Aside from helping them translate and communicate with others, the students can also show them around campus and help them get familiarized with their environment to foster a feeling of belonging.

  1. Make Full Use Of Visual Aids

While words can be limited to the language used, many pictures, signs, and symbols are universal. Use them to communicate with the students and help bridge the communication gap so they won’t feel lost when navigating their way around campus. Simple adjustments like using bilingual labels around the classroom or visual posters for directions or procedures would go a long way towards helping a student feel accepted and welcomed into the community.


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