Multilingualism Essay

526 WordsMay 17, 20153 Pages
While multilingual education dates back to ancient times, until recently multilingualism has been seen by many education researchers as an exceptional, even hazardous, phenomenon. Trying to learn a subject using a language other than that spoken at home (for example, learning science in Danish rather than English) was cited as the root of a number of difficulties, including cognitive overload, semi-lingualism and language confusion. It was thought that using more than one language to learn was, essentially, bad for you. This point of view has profound implications for international schools, where a potentially large proportion of the community is learning through a language other than their home language. Thankfully, educational research now sees multilingualism as a potential asset, providing learners with a strategic, significant advantage. Speakers of multiple languages learn further languages more easily and seem to show a better understanding of the nature of linguistic structures. According to Laurent Gajo, a professor at the University of Geneva, empirical research shows that multilinguals ‘know things’ that transcend the purely linguistic level. In Gajo’s view of learning, the different languages interact and combine to generate an original, individual, complex competence on which the user may draw, rather than simply welding together two monolingual halves. Speaking multiple languages, it seems, makes you better at other languages, and also, potentially, more creative and better at mathematics, science or history. Learning while using a language other than your home language is not easy nor will it yield instant results. Though many children pick up basic language competencies relatively quickly, the more specific language demanded in an educational setting takes longer to acquire. Indeed, most students will initially see a drop in their
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