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Addressing Linguistic Diversity in Classrooms


The divergence between language and culture of schools and language and culture of increasing number of students- divide between schools and families- is stark and adversely impacts the learning outcomes. The key to bridging this gap is to embrace this linguistic diversity as a learning resource to transform classrooms into a more open, multilingual and multicultural space.

Perceiving Linguistic Diversity as a Wealth rather than a Problem
Teachers should be conscious of the linguistic and cultural heterogeneity of the pupils, the variety of languages spoken and the multiplicity of their cultural affiliation while instructing them. Educational practices are anchored in a multilingual system which presents a challenge for teachers and a dilemma for students as to why their native language cannot be used in the classroom. Rather than referring to heterogeneity which has a negative connotation, teachers should speak of diversity which sounds more positive and makes it possible to consider the plurality of languages and cultures as a wealth rather than a problem.

Achieving learning outcomes
The major aim of education is to inculcate students with the skills, knowledge and attitude required to function as responsible citizens of a society. The void left by the lack of adequate language instructions has deep ramifications on their social functioning.

The responsibility of the schools and teachers is to fill these fissures by emphasising the fact that language is always pluralistic. Plurality is deep embedded even within a single language spoken by the different people. No one speaks a language in an identical manner since no one lives it in the same way.

Instructors, responsible for transmission of knowledge and know-how to pupils, must recognise and accept students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge in order to understand their identity. They must ensure that the students feel comfortable at school, creating a climate of trust in which learning is facilitated.

While it is obvious that all languages cannot be taught at schools, there are pedagogical approaches that allow different languages to be taken into account. This can be done through using multilingual signs to decorate the walls, including bilingual books in the library, etc.

Researchers have found that students find it easier to engage in the languages that are taught at school when their own languages are recognised and valued because these are the languages that are practised in their family environment and by themselves. Placing a value on pupils’ different languages and cultural backgrounds boosts their self-confidence and self-esteem necessary for educational and professional success.

Thus, it is imperative that schools promote multi-linguicism because schools do not just serve as a space where one acquires knowledge but it is also a place where one pools one's skills and one's knowledge and where one learns to live together not by sharing a single language but by embracing several to build common values.

By Deeksha Shivhare
Sr. Executive DigiCom - Content
Redefine Marcom Pvt. Ltd.