Including multiple languages in secondary education: A translanguaging approach

Mirjam Günther-van der Meij
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  • NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences, Academy for Primary Teacher Training, Rengerslaan 10, 8917 DD, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
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, Joana Duarte and Laura Nap


This article presents recent developments around multilingual secondary education in the officially bilingual province of Friesland, the Netherlands. As in other European contexts, schools in this region face the challenge of a growing language diversity due to migration. Despite this larger variety of languages in society, schooling is still mainly through the national language (Kroon & Spotti, 2011), based on the idea that immersion in each of the target languages triggers the best outcomes, thus leading to language separation pedagogies. Also, in teacher training programmes, pre-service teachers are educated with a pedagogy of language separation. This is in contrast with research that has repeatedly shown the importance of using all language resources of multilingual pupils in optimizing learning (Cenoz & Gorter, 2011; Cummins, 2008).

Against this backdrop, recent developments for multilingual secondary education within the province of Friesland focus on

a. less separation between the three instruction languages (Frisian, Dutch and English);

b. creating bridges between foreign languages in secondary education (German and French);

c. valorising and including migrant languages in mainstream education.

The Holi-Frysk project (holistic approach for Frisian and language education) was set up as an answer to these issues (Authors, forthcoming). In this pilot-project three secondary schools of different types developed, implemented and evaluated multilingual teaching approaches to include all languages present in the school in teaching. Teachers were trained through workshops and school visits and the

activities were video recorded, transcribed and analysed on their translanguaging practices.

The article will first of all present and discuss a few examples of the pedagogical activities and secondly zoom in on its effects at the interactional level by focusing on moments in which different functions of pedagogical translanguaging (García & Wei, 2015) appear. Finally, suggestions are given how these findings could be integrated in the teacher training programmes to prepare our pre-service teachers for today’s multilingual and multicultural classrooms.

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