Developing the rationale for teaching local languages to young language learners: a case study of teaching and learning Chinese language and culture in a Scottish primary school

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Abstract

This paper argues that teaching local languages – languages already in use in classrooms and communities served by schools – benefits primary school pupils in three ways: (1) inclusivity, providing opportunities for all children, with or without a pre-existing connection to the local language in question, to share and explore local languages and cultures; (2) transformational learning experiences, enabling all children to see themselves as (emergent) bilinguals; and (3) innovative pedagogies involving co-teaching and co-learning in the context of interdisciplinary initiatives.

We illustrate this argument through a case study, drawn from a larger investigation (Roxburgh, 2021) into the teaching of (Mandarin) Chinese language and culture (CLC) in five Scottish primary schools. The original research adopted a mixed methods approach: a survey of pupil perspectives and interviews with primary class teachers, ‘Hanban’ teachers (Chinese specialists in CLC) and pupil focus groups. In several schools, Chinese was, typically, presented as the language of a faraway, exotic culture that pupils might one day experience themselves. In contrast, case study ‘School 3’ adopted a distinctive approach, focusing on local contexts where Chinese was in use. Interdisciplinary projects incorporated opportunities to meet and talk to Chinese speakers living in or visiting the area, with positive outcomes in terms of pupil motivation, developing their competence in Chinese through ‘here-and-now’ interaction, and changing pupils’ and teachers’ thinking about learning multilingually.

Our reflections on the potential benefits of a shift from teaching foreign languages to local languages are framed in relation to the Douglas Fir Group’s ecological model for SLA (2016), and to recent calls to decolonise multilingualism (Phipps, 2019). Experimental initiatives, such as this case study, raise challenging questions about the purposes of language learning, particularly in the primary phase, about ‘effective’ approaches (and who gets to define these) and about how promising work can be sustained and developed.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022
EventBritish Association of Applied Linguistics 2022 Conference: Innovation and Social Justice in Applied Linguistics - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Sept 20223 Sept 2022
https://www.baalconference2022.com/uploads/1/3/4/9/134905719/baal_2022_conference_booklet_august_19.pdf

Conference

ConferenceBritish Association of Applied Linguistics 2022 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityBelfast
Period1/09/223/09/22
Internet address

Keywords

  • rationale
  • teaching
  • local languages
  • case study
  • Chinese language
  • Scottish primary school

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