X Close

IOE Blog

Home

Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society

Menu

Learning together: crossing the language barrier with bilingual pupils

Blog Editor, IOE Digital11 September 2015

Li Wei
“What do I do when all my pupils speak different languages that I don’t understand myself, even though I speak several languages already?” This is a question I was once asked by an experienced teacher who was getting ready for a trip to Sierra Leone as a volunteer teacher. She taught history and geography in an inner London school and spoke English, fluent French, and had a good knowledge of German and Spanish. We talked about the possibilities of having many different languages and dialects amongst the children she would be teaching, and the purpose and objective of her trip. She concluded that the only feasible way was to allow the children to use whatever language or dialect they felt most comfortable in and to ‘co-construct’ knowledge with her. So rather than teaching them directly, she would learn as much from the pupils as they would from her. They would be learning together.
This is the idea behind ‘Translanguaging’, a dynamic process of knowledge building and meaning making that employs (more…)