Chapter published in:Foreign Language Education in Multilingual Classrooms
Edited by Andreas Bonnet and Peter Siemund
[Hamburg Studies on Linguistic Diversity 7] 2018
► pp. 1–29
Multilingualism and foreign language education: A synthesis of linguistic and educational findings
We begin this contribution by briefly explaining the rationale and structure of this volume, but our principal aim here lies in providing a synopsis and synthesis of linguistic and educational approaches to multilingualism and foreign language education in such societal settings. For this purpose, we first of all offer crucial background information on current processes of globalization and the newly emerging multilingual societies, as these appear in a variety of forms. Multilingual societies, in turn, witness diverse settings and modes of language acquisition and learning in which especially the phenomenon of cross-linguistic influence becomes a factor that needs to be taken into consideration and deserves to be explored. We therefore offer a brief state-of-the-art report on language learning on multilingual substrate, before addressing multilingualism as an educational phenomenon including its role and relevance in the foreign language classroom. This furnishes several perspectives, notably that of the learner, the institution, the educational goals, and the requisite methodologies. Individual – and in a different sense also societal – multilingualism is widely assumed to increase metalinguistic awareness, which, in turn, has been argued to facilitate language learning, even though the precise boundary conditions allowing for such facilitative effects are still little understood, nor what facilitation exactly can be taken to mean. We in principle sympathize with the idea of multilingual facilitation effects on foreign language education, not least because language remains an important means to construct and enact individual and social identities and power relations. We also have to acknowledge, though, that the variety of linguistic, psychological and sociological influences on multilingual language acquisition and education is very difficult to control for and hard to factor in. In this sense, our volume needs to be regarded as a first step towards a better understanding of foreign language education in multilingual classrooms, but it is clear that this complicated subject matter urgently requires additional work.
Keywords: cross-linguistic influence, foreign language education, language awareness, metalinguistic awareness, teaching strategies, third language acquisition
Published online: 24 October 2018
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