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The Spread of Multilingualism in School Essay

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Updated: Jan 13th, 2022

The issue of multilingualism and its relationship with identity can be evaluated as an especially important one nowadays due to the ever speeding up process of globalization. There exist a row of opinions on the implementation of multilingualism in academic surroundings. The proponents of multilingualism implementation in school argue that it is an essential phenomenon necessary for enriching global culture along with the opportunity to maintain individual cultural peculiarities of minor languages. The opponents of multilingualism express their concerns toward the “purity” of the English language on the reason of the implementation of linguistic and grammar strategies relevant for the other languages into it. Generally, the issue of multilingualism should be considered from a variety of points related to maintaining the cultural values of all the related communities and striving to control the process of mutual language assimilation to direct it into a formative direction.

Speaking about numerous points which are related to the issue of multilingualism, it should be stated that the importance of linguistic diversity which is the main factor affecting multilingualism can be hardly underestimated. According to Gorter, “linguistic diversity in the world today is an issue of growing social importance because a majority of all living languages are threatened in their continued existence” (45). Considering this important idea, it becomes evident the way maintaining multilingualism is essential for maintaining global and local cultural values. Fishman explains that local communities “see their language as a sign of their own authenticity, one that has to be defended against the phenomena of globalization and regionalization“(par. 1). It is well acknowledged that the relationship between multilingualism and identity is indissoluble. They say a new language is a new world. Restricting the tendencies of foreign speakers towards their languages which are the best means to represent their mentality and their inner world the society destructs the whole world offered by this particular language. It is not wise to destroy the diversity existing on the earth which is majorly expressed through the variety of languages. However, the phenomenon of multilingualism is closely related to non-standard English or local dialects that multilingualism brings to American society. With regards to this, there arises a question concerning the measures and limits which are to be set in the area of affecting the English language by the other languages. Still, the non-standard dialects have a lot of reasons to exist as well. Non-standard English or local dialects that multilingualism brings to American society are important because they reflect the identity of the nation which becomes the creator of such dialect. It is interesting that through the whole course of the history of humanity the phenomenon of language assimilation occurred many times. Numerous languages appeared as a result of assimilating the other languages; however, it led to the disappearing of a row of important languages. For instance, the ancient Aramaic language which is believed to be the first language on the earth “gave birth” to Hebrew and Arabian languages, but disappeared in itself along with its numerous riches and secrets. This phenomenon occurred on the reason of assimilating this language. Arguing on the related matters Fishman states that, “there is no reason to assume that English will always be necessary, as it is today, for technology, higher education, and social mobility, particularly after its regional rivals experience their own growth spurts” (par. 78). Thus, the concerns of opponents of English language assimilating often refer to this example from the history of humanity to support their critical position toward changing the standards in English.

Furthermore, a row of well-respected specialists in the area of academic studies, education and linguistics express their concerns towards the phenomenon of multilingualism. In her speech “Don’t insist on English!” (2010), Patricia Ryan, a language teacher who has spent her last three decades teaching English in Arabic countries, points out the problem of English language globalization, the loss of other languages and the loss of knowledge with those languages. While the vast majority of the population recognizes that English language globalization brings a positive effect on the whole society, Patricia Ryan tries to demonstrate the negative sides of this aspect. With the main idea “when a language dies, we don’t know what we lose with that language” (Ryan) in mind, she aims to deliver awareness and suggestion to the audience-Keeping linguistic diversity is vital and mind our language instead of insisting on English or using it as a barrier is the key to share and spread great ideas worldwide. Ryan mentions a row of illustrative experiences proving her conclusions. Among such illustrations, the example of a Kenyan boy seems to be very important for understanding the issues behind the process of language assimilation caused by the process of globalization nowadays. Due to his unconquerable thirst for knowledge, the boy was able to achieve incredible academic results which are also connected to his mental peculiarities revealed in his native language. Ryan related the comments made by CNN: d” The children can lead Africa from what it is today, a dark continent, to a light continent” (Ryan 2010). She also commented on this expression with the following words, people who have no light, cannot pass our exams, and we can never know what they know. Let us not keep them and ourselves in the dark. Let us celebrate diversity. Mind your language. (Ryan 2010).

Ryan also discussed the example of her daughter who had a studying experience in the Arabic language before moving to the territory with English speaking educational system. The test of her academic achievements showed that her knowledge of all the subjects was much better than the one of her English speaking peers. Again, it is evident that “when students come to us from abroad, we may not be giving them enough credit for what they know, and they know it in their own language” (Ryan 2010).

With regards to the importance of supporting multilingual speakers in the United States, it is important to develop wise strategies to help in achieving the best results in this area. The main principle behind this strategy should rely on the importance to show due respect to their native language and identity. The assimilation process requires a lot of effort on the part of an immigrant (Tan 2012). That is why helping measures are to be taken to assist such people in need. Every educational establishment they have particular specialists responsible for giving a helping hand in the area of academic policies for the students. Such specialists should consider the cultural background of their students to provide them with the best assistance helping to adapt to the new society and its cultural peculiarities including language and its characteristics. One of the important measures in this area is providing studying courses not only in English but in the languages as well.

Concerning the languages which should be taught in the schools of the United States, it should be stated that they are quite many, of course. In general, the need to study any other language in a particular school in the United States should be conditioned by the origin of its students. For example, in particular areas Chinese people are a lot; so, in such areas Chinese can well become a second language for such school. In addition, it often happens that particular areas are densely inhabited by immigrants from a row of countries. In such cases, the variety of languages to study should be offered in a local school (Tan 2012). The most common languages on the territory of the United States which may be well instituted as second studying languages are Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, French and a row of African languages. Thus, concerning the languages to study in American schools one main rule can be developed which is the necessity to study the language relevant for any particular area on the reason of its being inhabited by particular nationalities. Language policymakers should consider the fact that from their decision in the area of bilingual education the future of development in the areas of education depends greatly. According to Cummins, “throughout the 40-year controversy in relation to bilingual education in the United States, TESOL has consistently articulated its support for bilingual education as a legitimate policy option for the education of bilingual and language-minority students” (321). All the arguments and debates in this area laid to a conclusion that bilingual instructional strategies are sufficient enough for addressing pedagogical concerns and addressing these multilingual policymakers and practitioners (Cummins 321). Indeed, the issue of allowing the non-standard form of English in school and society is probably the most heated one among all the issues related to multilingualism. There exist numerous opinions on this matter. The opponents of non-standard forms of English seem to be more numerous than the proponents. They explain their position by the concerns related to maintaining the original elegance of English along with its grammar structures and syntactical rules.

Concluding on all the information related above, it should be stated that the issue of multilingualism and its integral parts related to cultural identity can be evaluated as especially important nowadays on the reason of constantly the speeding up process of globalization in the world. A heated debate on the issues of implementation of multilingualism in academic surroundings is now conducted among the linguists and the representatives of the educational sphere. The opinions are diversified; however, they may be classified as belonging to two groups; the opponents and the proponents. The proponents of multilingualism implementation in school argue that it is an essential phenomenon helping to enrich global culture and providing the opportunity to maintain individual cultural peculiarities of minor languages. The opponents of multilingualism express their fears concerning the assimilation of the English language and affecting its “purity” on the reason of implementation linguistic and grammar strategies relevant for the other languages into it.

Works Cited

  1. Cummins, Jim. “Multilingualism in the English-language Classroom: Pedagogical Considerations”. University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (n. d.).: 317-320. Print.
  2. Fishman, Joshua. n. d. The new linguistic order. n. d. 2012.
  3. Gorter, Durk et al, n.d., Benefits of linguistic diversity and multilingualism. 2012.
  4. Ryan, Patricia. “Don’t insist on English!” Public speech, 2010.
  5. Tan, Amy. n. d. Mother Tongue. 2012.
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