Growing up with a mother who can readily speak three languages, is not easy, especially when you struggled learning just one. Learning languages was never easy for me. In order to learn English I lost my mother tongue, because I fully immersed myself in the English language. Then trying to learn French on top of that never worked. Over the years, I’ve come to retain bits and pieces of my mother tongue and learn some French. However, it has been a struggle the whole time.
In hindsight, I think the issues stemmed from the way languages are taught. When I was in English class in kindergarten, I was told to only speak English, and so I did. In French class, in high school, I was taught to only speak French, and so I did. The majority of the time I remained quiet in the classroom because I did not feel confident enough to speak up, especially in French. When I didn’t understand something and wanted to ask a question, I couldn’t because I didn’t know enough French to properly ask the question, which left me permanently in the dark. I think this is where my views of language teaching derive from.
I can understand why many classrooms follow the monolingual model, but after having experienced it, I feel that there must be a better way.
Recently, I have started to relearn my mother tongue. It is a slow process, some concepts came very easily, due to the years of only speaking Danish, but others were more difficult. What helped me the most was being able to ask my mother in English why particular grammar rules are the way they are. For example, in Danish you wouldn’t say the boy, instead, you would just add a suffix to the end of the word to symbolize the.
Boy = Dreng
The boy= Drengen
This also applies to plurals and ‘s. I found that being able to ask why in English helped me understand and once I had understood why I then knew when to use the proper endings. If I hadn’t been able to ask in English and had to do it in Danish, I would have gone weeks without understanding why.
I understand that we shouldn’t constantly be speaking different languages in a specific language class, and this would be very hard to accomplish if the class is full of students with different L1s. However, how can we help students learn languages, when we know the monolingual model does not work, and we should be promoting the bilingual model? I have read the articles on bilingualism but how do we actually implement a curriculum that can help all students? Especially, with the amount of diversity in our classrooms.
What are your thoughts? Is it possible?