Plurilingual Teaching Across the Curriculum
By Julian Hermida
With notable exceptions, American undergraduate education is unilingual. While American society is multicultural with a plurality of languages and immigrant minorities, the vast majority of US universities do not require proficiency in a second language for undergraduate graduation. This has resulted in two interrelated phenomena. First, unilingual students do not acquire a second language. Second, students who are already bilingual, such as first or second generation immigrants, do not become fully literate in their first language, because higher education institutions do not give them the possibility to pursue part of their education in their first language.
Learning a plurality of languages has become an essential component of education in a globalized world. The benefits are multifold. Language determines the way in which we understand reality. Language is a system of representation for perception and thinking. So, learning a discipline in a second language enables learners to achieve a degree of depth which cannot be achieved when learning in only one language (Bowden & Marton, 2004). Knowledge of more than one language is also crucial to compete with graduates from universities in Europe and other parts of the world that have extensive foreign and second language policy programs. For example, the Council of Europe adopted policy that recommends its member states to adopt a plurilingual approach to education at all levels. Within this framework, authorities have to ensure that language instruction is fully integrated within the core of the educational aims of universities and to consider and treat each language in the curriculum not in isolation but as part of a coherent plurilingual education for all students across the entire curriculum (Council of Europe, 2008). A plurilingual education also fosters an increase in awareness and sensitivity for multicultural issues (Haigh, 2009).
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