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Speaking mother tongue in an International School

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by lkr, Sep 21, 2019.

  1. lkr

    lkr New commenter

    Hi,
    I work at an international school in Europe. We have children from over 50 different countries within our school but a couple of groups of nationalities are significant (the host country and Chinese).
    There has been an issue of some children in primary feeling excluded due to groups of students speaking their home language and not English in the playground.
    This is incredibly hard to prevent/police though...and I'm not even sure it should be. What do you do in your Int school regarding mother tongue at breaktimes? I'm really open and interested to hear what other schools do.
    Thank you!
     
  2. T0nyGT

    T0nyGT Lead commenter

    Our school, like many other schools have a policy of no speaking mother tongue in classes but outside of classes at breaks they can speak whichever language they like.
     
    dumbbells66 likes this.
  3. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    Same in all the decent schools i have worked in.
     
  4. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    I agree with Tony and Dumbers (I think I probably need to lie down). My children were bilingual. In middle school one of them was in a homeroom that mostly socialised in English. The other lad's group favoured Spanish. If some children feel excluded by language we can encourage their classmates to use the lingua franca, but insisting is never going to work.
     
  5. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    But lets have a guess where the terrible school i worked in was ???;)

    You cant police the playground, but if you have a decent language and inclusion policy at school enforcing an inclusive language culture in the classroom should not be an issue.
     
    gulfgolf likes this.
  6. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    So the native English speaking kids are feeling left out because they can't understand nor speak the language of their host country or any another language.... Whilst students who can speak thier mother tongue PLUS the English language (and most probably one other) are being patrolled not to speak it so that the minority (native English speakers) don't feel left out......

    Any school who have a policy like this should revisit their purpose.

    Thankfully I've never worked in a school with that (ridiculous) approach.. Providing the language is not being used to offend anyone then let them speak whatever they want.
     
  7. blue451

    blue451 Lead commenter

    That's not what it's about.

    I currently work in a school which is about half and half local and international. I've worked in similar before and whatever the school policy, you will get classes or year groups who can converse happily either in English or in the local language and form friendships of all nationalities - and other year groups where groups or cliques form centred on common nationality or common language. I suppose it's no different from finding one year group well motivated, hard working and successful academically, and the next demotivated and disintereested.


    But in schools like these, there are new students arriving not just every year but every term, often with no knowledge either of English or of the local language. Most will learn both in time, but their priority is english because that's the language they will do their schooling in, so it's both sensible and sensitive to promote a culture of inclusiveness which includes preferring a common language over one which isolates newcomers.

    Those native English speaking kids you mention are not the issue. They have the huge advantage of already speaking the langage of their education and can fous on learning the local language. But for those who arrive with no knowledge of either, and have to learn english asap in order to follow their schooling, it seems a little harsh to expect them to learn hugarian/vietnamese/portuguese at the same time to avoid being excluded in the playground.

    I worry that teachers can't empathise with this.
     
    Kartoshka likes this.
  8. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    A good language policy can ask that groups choose a language that includes everyone present. Mandarin is fine if everyone speaks it.
     
    dumbbells66 and blue451 like this.
  9. yasf

    yasf Established commenter

    These days a student's mother tongue or heritage language is to be respected and nurtured. The days of beating a student's culture and sense of self worth out of them has thankfully been left in the past, where it belongs.
     
  10. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    All the research into language acquisition and multi-lingualism shows that language acquisition and literacy is pegged to students' proficiency in their home language (L1). If you try to insist on students only speaking English in a peer-to-peer play context, you will actually delay their development of English. Children coming to English after age six(ish) need to learn how to have peer-to-peer interactions (which are distinct to parent-child interactions) in their own languages first before they do so in English - otherwise, their English and L1 vocabulary will be far narrower than it should be. This will have a knock on effect on their reading and writing ability.

    So, as you say, DON'T police it - perhaps instead explain to your school's students why multi-lingualism is so valuable and should be celebrated rather than seen ass exclusive.
     
  11. yasf

    yasf Established commenter

    Couldn't agree more.
     
    tb9605 likes this.
  12. lardprao

    lardprao New commenter

    This is when you need a whole school language policy that positively welcomes the EAL department and recognizes current research findings with regard to translanguaging, for example. I don’t argue for constant chopping and changing but this seems to be a case where everybody has a different viewpoint.
     
    grdwdgrrrl likes this.
  13. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    @blue451 Our local host invest in their children being educated in an English based language of instruction and curriculum. Simple solution for those kids feeling "left out of the cliques"...?Parents and teacher parents of native English speakers must also do the same.... invest in learning the mother tongue of their host country.

    Instead of policing it, encourage learning a new language. One of the greatest rewards of being able to live in different countries is giving our children the opportunity to learn a new language. My kids speak three languages fluently.

    We are after all....well....economic migrants. People expect migrants to speak and understand English when they migrate to countries such as the UK, US, NZ, OZ et al.. Our host country's children have every right to speak their mother tongue language/s particularly when it's their free time.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2019
    grdwdgrrrl likes this.
  14. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    When this old hippo was teaching in Bucharest, I met a nine-year-old who spoke six different languages. My Russian was just good enough for me to know that hers was a lot better than mine! When I was teaching in Shenzhen, one of my Year 5 students won the Mandarin-speaking competition for all of the laowai in the whole city. He was (and still is) a blonde-haired, blue-eyed American boy. As for the ancient pachyderm, I have had a few kind comments from my Bulgarian colleagues, as my knowledge and confidence with the local lingo is slowly improving. Malko po malko.
     
  15. motorhomer

    motorhomer New commenter

    It seems like the conversation is moving towards what language staff speak. How do you guys feel about local staff speaking the language of the host country in the presence of expat staff who can only speak English?
     
  16. yasf

    yasf Established commenter

    No problem at all. Why would I have ?
     
    grdwdgrrrl, tb9605 and dumbbells66 like this.
  17. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Lead commenter

    Quite right. As a newcomer to Latin America I knew I needed to learn Spanish. It never occurred to me that my colleagues should speak English just to make me feel more comfortable.
     
    tb9605, yasf and dumbbells66 like this.
  18. kemevez

    kemevez Occasional commenter

    No problem at all from me either.
     
    tb9605 likes this.
  19. amysdad

    amysdad Established commenter

    In my school and in my previous school, it is English only. Firstly, in my current school in China, there are (a) a lot of native English speakers, either British or American; (b) there are a lot of Koreans who tend to keep to their own cliques so to encourage them to assimilate a common language is needed; and (c) parents are paying for their kids to be taught in and learn English, and having them work continually in that language helps them develop it.

    In my previous school (in a Middle Eastern country) there was also the additional problem of bullying / abuse (the usual 'your mother is a donkey' kind of things) and the only way we could police it properly - because the local staff there were worse than useless - was to punish the speaking of Arabic in the hallways. Not ideal at all, but out of my hands....
     
  20. blue451

    blue451 Lead commenter

    I wasn't talking about native english speakers.

    I'm just asking that we show some understanding and empathy for those students who will spend their first months getting up to speed with English, before tackling the local language.
     

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