The PE-LAL project: Plurilingual Education – Minority and Majority Students’ Language Awareness across Educational Levels

In recent years, plurilingual education has been subject to growing interest within educational research. The so-called pluralistic approach is based on students’ language resources and seeks to build bridges between languages (Danish, foreign languages, first languages, other languages) in order to enhance all learners’ communicative competence and language awareness (LA). From our perspective, all foreign language learners are plurilingual because they learn more than one language as a result of schooling. 

Despite the extensive use of the LA concept since 1984, a systematic empirical research on minority and majority learners' development of LA through plurilingual education across educational levels is still lacking in order to further theoretically develop the field of study. Based on curriculum analysis (macro level) and a focused mulit case study (nano level), the project investigates how minority and majority students develop LA in the context of plurilingual education in primary and lower secondary language education and in a course of general language awareness (Almen Sprogforståelse) in upper secondary education. 

The project started in October 2020 and lasts three years.

 

 

 

Within sociolinguistics, sociology of language, and language education, a paradigmatic shift has emerged within the last four decades. As Daryai-Hansen et al. have described it: “the idea of languages as segmented, autonomous entities has been replaced by a holistic conception of plurilingual competences being multiple, dynamic, integrated, contextualized, and individualized” (Daryai-Hansen et al., 2015, 109; see e.g. Blommaert, 2010; Byrd Clark, 2012; Lüdi & Py, 2009; Herdina & Jessner, 2002; Pitkänen-Huhta & Mäntyla, 2014). The field of knowledge is characterized by terminological plurality switching between terms as translanguaging (García, 2009), plurilingualism (Moore & Gajo, 2009), polylingualism (Jørgensen et al., 2011), plurilanguaging (Makoni & Makoni, 2010), and flexible multilingualism (Weber & Horner, 2012). In educational research, plurilingual education has been subject to growing interest in a European and Scandinavian context (see e.g. Coste, Moore & Zarate, 1997/2009; Daryai-Hansen, 2018; Haukås, 2014; Haukås & Speitz, 2018; Hufeisen & Lindemann, 1998; Pietikäinen & Pitkänen-Huhta, 2013; Steffensen, 2016), also in second language research (see e.g. Daugaard, 2015; Laursen, 2018; Laursen et al., 2018).

Plurilingual education, however, is far from well-established on a macro level (the national curricula) and on a micro level in educational practice (Beacco et al., 2010; Blackledge & Creese, 2010; Daryai-Hansen et al., 2015; Holmen, 2019). In Candelier et al.’s (2007) terminology, the singular approach to languages, which develops learners’ communicative competences by concentrating exclusively on the target language, still predominates the pluralistic approach, which is an approach based on minority and majority student language resources that seeks to build bridges between languages (Danish, foreign languages, first languages, other languages) in order to both strengthen all learners’ communicative competence and develop their language awareness (see also Bono & Strilaki, 2009; Duarte, 2018; Psaltou-Joycey & Kantaridou, 2009; Vorstman et al., 2009). From this perspective, on a nano level, all foreign language learners are plurilingual, because they learn more than one language as a result of schooling.

From this perspective, on a nano level, all foreign language learners are plurilingual, and minority students are defined as having, in addition, other first languages than the majority language. García, Johnson & Seltzer (2016, xi) emphasize that translanguaging has three dimensions: At the micro level, it is a pedagogical strategy called on by teachers. At the nano level, translanguaging is both a communication practice and a cognitive strategy drawn on by students, deploying the wide range of their linguistic resources and their language awareness.

The term language awareness (LA) can be traced back to Hawkins (1984). In the research literature, there are different perceptions of LA. The Association for Language Awareness defines LA broadly as “an explicit knowledge about language, and conscious perception and sensitivity in language learning, language teaching and language use” (ALA, 2018). In language research the term LA is often used synonymously with linguistic awareness (Jessner, 2006; Masny, 2010) andmetalinguistic awareness (Roth et al., 1996; Roberts, 2011), despite terminological ambiguity between the concepts (Baker & Jones, 1998; Gnutzmann, 1997; James, 1999; Jessner, 2008). L1 research (L1=first language, L2=second language, etc.) has mainly been concerned with LA in relation to learners’ literacy (Elbro, 2006; Elbro & Arnbak, 1996; Juul, 2002; Myhill et al., 2012, 2016; Petersen et al., 2015; Pinto, 2015; Zipke, 2008) or to the term textrörlighet (Liberg et al., 2012). In L2/L3 research, LA has been drawing on a plurilingual education for decades (in the Danish context e.g. Færch, Haastrup & Phillipson, 1984; Hansen, 1998). Based on a holistic (Cook, 1991) and additive (Cummins, 2000) approach, L2/L3 research has criticized the monolingual habitus in the multilingual school (Gogolin, 1994) from a minority students’ perspective (see e.g. Holmen, 2011, 2019; Horst, 2017; Kristjánsdóttir, 2018) and has argued that bridging between all learners’ language resources develops synergies that support minority and majority learners’ language acquisition and develop their LA (Coste, Moore & Zarate, 1997/2009; Jessner & Allgäuer-Heckl, 2016). Research stresses that by attributing equal value to all languages represented in the classroom, including protecting, promoting and acknowledging minority languages (Auger, 2014; Cenoz, 2017), a language integrated learning space has a scaffolding function (Allard, 2017; Duarte, 2018). A study by Hamers (2000) shows that plurilingual education integrating minority learners’ L1 has a measurable effect on the development of minority learners’ LA and their development of other language competences. Reich & Krumm (2013) emphasize that when learners develop LA by drawing on their various language resources, all learners’ general language education (“Sprachbildung”) is also strengthened.

Both L1 and L2/L3 research are interested in the impact that age has on LA (Brooks & Kempe, 2013; Lasagabaster, 2001; Roehr, 2006; Tellier & Roehr-Brackin, 2013). Edwards & Kirkpatrick (1999) argue for a developmental progression in children’s ability to develop LA, which is supported by Dekeyser (2003) and Lichtman (2013), who point out that older learners increasingly acquire language explicitly and thus have a greater potential for developing LA than younger learners. By referring to a study that follows minority students through primary and secondary school (age 6 to 16), Muñoz (2017) concludes, that older learners express LA to a greater extent than younger learners, which can be explained by the fact that teaching becomes more explicit as the learners grow old. Recent research thus stresses, that even young children at age 8 to 9 can and do develop LA, but that the development of LA depends on explicit instruction comprising deductive, form-focused activities (Bialystok, 2001; Bialystok et al., 2014; Bouffard & Sarkar, 2008; Tellier & Roehr-Brackin, 2017). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite the extensive use of the concept since 1984 and several operationalizations (see e.g. Daryai-Hansen, Drachmann & Meidell Sigsgaard, 2019; Drachmann, 2018; García, 2008; Krogager Andersen, forthcoming; Tarricone, 2011; Weskamp, 2001) a systematic empirical research comparing minority and majority student development of LA through plurilingual education across educational levels, is, to the best of our knowledge, still lacking. The project seeks to fill this gap and to contribute to the further theoretisation of the field of knowledge. Furthermore, the project aims to develop plurilingual education, focusing on the linguistic background of all students as a resource (Auger, 2014; Cenoz, 2017; Holmen, 2019) and hereby contributing to reduce inequalities in increasingly linguistic heterogeneous societies and school contexts (see e.g. Thiijs & Verkuyten, 2014).

Research questions

The project seeks to answer the following overall research question: How can minority and majority students’ development of LA through plurilingual education be conceptualized across educational levels? The project will address three subordinated research questions generating three type of data sets to answer the overall research question:

Research question 1

How is LA and plurilingual education integrated in and across the Danish curriculum in primary and lower secondary education and the curriculum for Almen Sprogforståelse in upper secondary education?

Research question 2

How does the students' LA itself in the context of plurilingual education in primary and secondary education? 

Research question 3

How is LA expressed and reflected in group interviews with minority and majority students in primary and secondary education, whose teaching was based on plurilingual education?

Research hypotheses

Our main hypotheses are that LA, given that the educational context represents exemplary practices, (a) can be developed by students at all educational levels and by both minority and majority students through plurilingual education, (b) manifests itself and can be communicated by the individual learners as communication practice and cognitive strategy in response to pedagogical strategies, revealing similarities and differences in respect to the learners’ age and linguistic ressources, (c) can be conceptualized based on systematic empirical research, (d) is not taken sufficiently into account in the Danish curriculum from this cross-curricular, and cross-level and minority/majority perspective.

The Danish context provides useful data for the study, due to plurilingual education having been systematically implemented recently for the first time in Early English (taught from grade 1) and Early French and German (taught from grade 5) in the project Learning Foreign Languages at an Early Age – A New Approach with Emphasis on Plurilingualism(LFLEA, Daryai-Hansen & Albrechtsen, 2018). Furthermore, since 2005, the preparatory three-months cross-curricular course Almen Sprogforståelse (‘General Language Understanding’) has aimed to develop learners’ LA in the beginning of upper secondary education to ensure a common basis for and an introduction to the language subjects in upper secondary school (Andersen, 2004).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bildetema

Visit: Bildetema

Bildetema is part of the Norwegian online platform Tema Morsmål which contains resources and materials in a plethora oflanguages. Bildetema is a plurilingual, interactive visual dictionary with illustrations, text, sound and animations and contains around 1900 entries divided into 31 themes such as ”the weather” or ”sports.” Bildetema is run in cooperation between Norway, Sweden and Denmark and has Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Swedish, Danish and Enlish as primary languages. Many different minority languages such as Arabic and Somali can be chosen  - up to 10 languages at a time.

  • Target group: primary and pre-primary
  • Subjects: materials may be used across the curriculum

Norden i Skolen 

Visit Norden i Skolen

The platform Norden i Skolen, administrated by Foreningen Norden, consists of teaching materials within the field of inter-comprehension between Scandinavian languages and Nordic cultures. The material, available in Danish, Faroese, Islandic, Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Swedish and some minority languages, can be selected according to three main categories (‘language and culture’, ’history and society’, ‘climate and nature’), educational levels, language subjects, thematic areas, learning focuses and teaching activities.

  • Target group: Primary to upper secondary school
  • Subjects: Foreign language education and subjects across the school’s curriculum

Plurilingual Guide: Implementing Critical Plurilingual Pedagogy in Language Education

Visit Plurilingual Guide: Implementing Critical Plurilingual Pedagogy in Language Education

The publication Plurilingual Guide: Implementing Critical Plurilingual Pedagogy in Language Education, published by the Plurilingual Lab at McGill University, consists of 10 tasks based on an inclusive critical plurilingual and pluricultural approach. The tasks are detailly described in a step-by-step guide and contains texts, links, and worksheets.

  • Target group: Primary and upper secondary school
  • Subjects: Foreign language education

Signs of language

Visit Signs of language

The Danish longitude project Signs of Language has for 10 years followed minority students’ literacy development within plurilingual education. The project’s website contains inspiration to plurilingual activities focusing on second language and literacy development in plurilingual classrooms aiming for lower and upper primary school and lower secondary school.

  • Target group: Primary and lower secondary school
  • Subjects: Danish, Danish as Second Language and subjects across the school’s curriculum

The CONBAT+ project

Visit the CONBAT+ project

The CONBAT+ project has developed teaching materials within the field of plurilingual and intercultural education, which has an embedded CLIL approach and can be used with students aged 6-20. The material, available in English, French and Spanish, can be selected according to educational levels, thematic areas, subjects and language of instruction.

  • Target group: Primary to upper secondary school and beyond
  • Subjects: Foreign language education and subjects across the school’s curriculum

The EDiLiC Association

Visit the EDiLiC Association

The EDiLiC Association has collected teaching materials within the field of plurilingual education from different projects in e.g., Austria, Canada, England, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Spain and Switzerland. The collection contains online activities and references to books dealing with the subject.

  • Target group: Primary to upper secondary school and beyond
  • Subjects: Foreign language education and subjects across the school’s curriculum

The European Language Portfolio

Visit the European Language Portfolio

The European Language Portfolio, based on The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, translated from Norwegian into Danish. The portfolio consists of a language passport, a language biography and a language folder, and serves to enable the student (age 6-12) to visualize and reflect on his/her acquisition processes.

  • Target group: Primary school
  • Subjects: Danish as Second Language, English, French and German 

The FREPA database

Visit the FREPA database

The FREPA database, facilitated by the European Centre for Modern Languages, Council of Europe, consists of teaching materials within the field of plurilingual and intercultural education. The material, available in a wide range of languages, can be selected according to educational levels, thematic areas, type of pluralistic approach and language of instruction.

  • Target group: From pre-primary to upper secondary and beyond
  • Subjects: Foreign language education and subjects across the school’s curriculum

Tidligere sprogstart (early language learning)

Visit Tidligere sprogstart

Research-based and in practice tested teaching material for English, French and German, which takes into account plurilingual education. The material, available in Danish, focuses on early language learning and consists of a language passport, a language portfolio and individual activities integrated within the teaching descriptions. All plurilingual activities come with an answer key.

  • Target group: Primary school
  • Subjects: English, French and German

 

 

 

 

 

Researchers

Name Title Phone E-mail
Daryai-Hansen, Petra Associate Professor +4535334482 E-mail
Drachmann, Natascha PhD Fellow +4530237919 E-mail
Holmen, Anne Head of Centre, Professor +4535328174 E-mail

Other researchers

Line Krogager Andersen, postdoc, Department for the Study of CultureUniversity of Southern Denmark

Line Møller Daugaard, associated researcher, VIA University College

Tom Steffensen, associated researcher, University College Copenhagen

Funding

Independent research fund

Independent Research Fund Denmark, DFF-Research Project 2

Project period: 2020-2023
PI: Petra Daryai-Hansen

Teaching materials

Pupils

Do you need inspiration on how to integrate plurilingualism and plurilingual education in your teaching? See the plurilingual teaching material developed in the project for primary and secondary education or the project’s collection of existing plurilingual teaching materials for primary, secondary and tertiary education. The teaching materials are available for free.

Digital series of talks on plurilingualism and interculturality, spring and autumn 2021