Diversity to Language Immersion: How Using a Diverse Classroom Can Create Language Immersion.
The quickest and easiest way to learn a foreign language is to immerse oneself in the language and culture. Unfortunately, moving to an English-speaking country is neither feasible nor practical for most learners. However, putting yourself in a situation where you will be forced to speak a foreign language more often is the next best thing. While many schools only have students from one or two countries, I Can Read boasts students from over seven different countries, as well as a highly diverse staff. This diverse learning environment will help students learn English much quicker than if they studied with only people from their own country.
Why does studying with students from around the world give students an advantage when it comes to learning English? Typically, when a class is full of students who all speak the same language, they will be tempted to speak their mother tongue with each other. However, if, for example, students from Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia study together in the same class, they must communicate in their common language: English. This encourages students to use English in a natural way with their peers, both during class and before and after the lesson. When classes are monolingual, students tend to only speak amongst themselves in their native language, whereas students in diverse classes will always speak English with one another so the entire group can understand. “When we play during free time, we usually speak English because I can’t speak Vietnamese, and they (Vietnamese students) can’t understand Chinese,” says Kevin, age 8 from Taiwan.
The advantages can also be seen inside the classroom. While we are doing exercises in our books, I always tell the children they may talk as much as the want as long as they speak in English and complete their works. During this time, I often hear conversations take place between, for instance, a student from Singapore with another student from The Philippines. While the other students may not be able to speak as much as them, they can learn from the conversations between the two other students and use newly-acquired vocabulary in future classes. This allows the students to not only learn from the teacher but from one another as well. One day, one of my Vietnamese students, Dat, asked me if he could borrow my pen. I asked him where he learned how to ask to borrow something (as we had not learned “borrow” and “lend” in class yet). Dat told me he had learned “Can I borrow….” from listening to Yun Jing always asking Rainver for his crayons. In a multilingual class, students are forced to use English not as a school subject, but as a communicative tool, which is the real purpose of learning a language.
A great advantage of going to a highly-diverse school is the friendships students make with children from other countries. Not only do they find English as their common language, but also learn about other cultures and countries, helping foster an international outlook from a young age. A multilingual classroom is great for both the teacher and the students. The teacher can assign fun homework such as: Go play soccer with all of your classmates sometime this week. While the students may not even consider this homework, the teacher knows that the students are going to have to speak English in order to solve problems and make plans while enjoying each other’s company. Part of the teacher’s role is to facilitate the use of English in a meaningful, natural way. Memorizing phrases and using them in a mechanical manner is not a good way for a student to learn to use language. A culturally-diverse classroom encourages natural language use, which is something a good teacher strives for. Acquiring a new language is all about practice and I Can Read’s diverse environment will give students ample opportunities to use English, both inside and outside the classroom. At the same time, the students will learn about other nations and cultures. A diverse classroom helps a student improve their language skills and their understanding of the world outside, and I Can Read is proud to offer that diversity to its customers.
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