EAL and linguistic diversity in schools

Information about the diverse language backgrounds found in classrooms and how to use existing resources in language programs in schools.

Language backgrounds in schools

Why is there the need to cater for linguistic diversity?

Because it provides opportunities for children to develop their language potential to the fullest:

  • in a language in which they have some background
  • in a language they have acquired as a second language
  • or by acquiring a third or additional language

In what way?

  • Through language sharing: those with less background can hear the language being used in a natural way
  • those with more background can feel good about their language
  • both groups have the opportunities to communicate with each other in the language

What types of language backgrounds do we find in classrooms?

A typical language classroom will include students with many different backgrounds in the language. The following table shows the diversity of backgrounds in our study.

Students in Language classrooms may have ...

  1. a home background + overseas experience of formal education in the LOTE (Languages other than English)
  2. a passive home background - the student can comprehend the LOTE but speaking skills are not developed
  3. an active home background (the student can comprehend and speak the language quite well) + some forma instruction in the LOTE
  4. no home background but formal instruction in the LOTE
  5. an active home background + no formal instruction in the LOTE
  6. the student may be an L3 learner
  7. an active home background in a 'dialect' of the language + with/without formal instruction in the LOTE
  8. a passive home background in a 'dialect' of the language + no formal instruction in the LOTE
  9. a weak active home background + no formal instruction in the LOTE
  10. no home background + no formal instruction in the LOTE

Community resources in language programs

Why do we utilise community resources for language programs?

Exposure to a living language outside the four walls of a classroom is the most effective way to learn a language.

Melbourne, with 27% of its population using a language other than English at home, offers an environment rich with resources that lend themselves to language sharing. Teachers should tap into these resources to enhance the learning experience of their students.

What types of community resources can we utilise in our programs

  • Students of mixed background in the community language within the school
  • Institutions and community organisations eg centres for the elderly, social clubs, retirement homes, welfare organisations, church groups, sport clubs where people who speak the various community languages reside or congregate
  • Shops and shopkeepers eg greengrocers, restaurants, cake shops, banks, music shops, christening/baptism shops, etc where there are visible presence of signs and symbols of various community languages as well as shopkeepers who are native speakers of these languages

Activities have been developed to demonstrate the effective use of community resources in language programs. These activities can be used as models and be adapted to any community language.

RUMACCC is also involved in the compilation of reports on language programs in schools which provide valuable background information and resources, particularly for planning of language programs.

More information is available on the Language education in schools web page.