“I never thought about those rules in all my languages” : A comparative study of teaching the English articles in the multilingual classroom from a monolingual or a multilingual approach

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen

Abstract: This study is conducted to compare the effect of practicing a multilingual approach to a monolingual approach in teaching the English article system for students with multilingual backgrounds. Through a structured experiment in light of sociolinguistic and second language acquisition theories, two different discourses (complexes of signs and practices that organize social existence and social reproduction) structuring different legitimate languages are implemented in each respective approach. In the multilingual approach, all languages in the participants’ language repertoire are legitimized and encouraged, while only Standard English is legitimized in the monolingual approach. Three groups of informants participated in the experiment. Two groups of young informants with low English proficiency, and one group of adult informants with intermediate English proficiency participated in the experiment. The majority of the participants have more than two languages in their language repertoires. The multilingual approach was adopted in one of the young groups and the adult group. The study shows that all informants improved in their use of the English article system, regardless of the different approaches. The informants with lower English proficiency level and with a strongest [-ART] language (language with no articles) improved 40.9% in the multilingual approach, which is almost twice as much as the improvement in the monolingual approach. However, the young informants in both groups tend to be confused about the use of the indefinite article a/an after the exercise. The improvements tend to remain in a longer period of time with the multilingual approach in both the adult group and the young group. In addition, the participants tend to show higher rates of concentration, positive emotional feelings and engagement during and after the multilingual approach. The results suggest that it is beneficial to deploy the multilingual approach, through intentional structuring of the legitimized languages in classroom.

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