All EU languages are equally important. Languages should be learned early! These declarations come from the European Parliament which has ratified a multilingual language policy (European Parliament, 2013), and the Council of Europe which aims to support multilingualism. This endeavour is also reflected in the educational policies of the European states, though to a different extent.
Research Summary written by Darya Colaci (with Claudine Kirsch)
All EU languages are equally important. Languages should be learned early! These declarations come from the European Parliament which has ratified a multilingual language policy (European Parliament, 2013), and the Council of Europe which aims to support multilingualism. This endeavour is also reflected in the educational policies of the European states, though to a different extent. Multilingual programmes focus on children of all ages and take into account all languages, namely home languages, regional and minority languages, languages of schooling, and foreign languages. Apart from developing children’s language repertoire and cultural identities, they also value linguistic and cultural diversity.
To further multilingualism, the Council of Europe’s European Centre for Modern Languages (ECML) promotes home-school collaboration. Partnerships with parents bring encouraging results for all educational actors: they influence the parents’ and teachers’ attitudes and improve the parents’ involvement in their children’s education (Betz et al., 2017). As a result, the children are more likely to develop an interest in languages and cultures and achieve better at school. Additionally, family involvement positively influences the parents’ and children’s social integration.
One of the most prominent ECML programmes, the PARENTS mediation project IPPIE, promotes a closer connection between families and schools. Two examples will be presented below as they illustrate well how the school environment could be a space that offers intercultural and multilingual education. A project in a nursery school in Barcelona aimed to enhance connections between parents from different cultures and languages by having them share their countries’ folk dances. The parents were asked to teach a typical dance in their home language, explain the choreography, and present the significance of the dancing game. The explanations were translated into Catalan or Spanish for all participants to follow the instructions and learn the steps. The second example “photo de classe” stems from a primary school class in Paris. Initially, the children did not know much about their family history and the reasons why they had immigrated. Thanks to this project, they investigated and documented their origins and the family stories by conducting and recording interviews and identifying reliquaries that made their stories more vivid and comprehensible. Additionally, the children taught features of their home languages and shared their ideas about immigration, racism, and national symbols. The teacher’s goal was to make the children reflect on their own stories by helping them identify individual and common features.
These examples show how diversity is put in a positive light and perceived as a valuable asset for teachers, children, and parents. By drawing on the families’ linguistic and cultural capital, the teachers equip children with the skills they need to live in diverse societies. Home-school collaboration contributes to the creation of intercultural societies where linguistic and cultural diversity is valued.
Betz, T., Bischoff, S., Eunicke, N., Kayser, L. B., & Zink, K. (2017). Partner auf Augenhöhe?: Forschungsbefunde zur Zusammenarbeit von Familien, Kitas und Schulen mit Blick auf Bildungschancen. Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung.
European Parliament (2013) Language policy https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/fiches_techniques/2013/051306/04A_FT(2013)051306_EN.pdf
IPPIE: Involving parents in plurilingual and intercultural education, https://parents.ecml.at/Home/read_more/tabid/4297/language/en-GB/Default.aspx
Photo de classe https://www.photo-de-classe.org/#/introduction