MULTILINGUALISM IN A CONTEXT (part I)

Establishing a scenario for a multicultural context

Abrera is a small municipality in Baix Llobregat with no more than 12.000 habitants and about 6.27% are immigrants. The number of foreign people has been considerably increasing during the last years due to the lower flat rentals Abrera offers to the citizens. Living next to Llobregat is cheaper rather than living in Barcelona, this is why the majority of immigrants try to find a place to live in the suburbs. Morocco has been the most important source of migrants coming to Spain in search of work. They live together in neighbourhoods and communities, sharing flats and socio-cultural activities. Living in community also helps them to carry through their kids education, providing advice and accompany for the new arrivals.

I focus my research on the public school Francesc Platón i Sartí, which offers public education from 3 to 12 years old in Abrera. A high number of students are immigrants from Morocco, a lower number come from China and a minority come from other European countries, such as Bulgaria or Polonia. It is crystal water that the school needs to have sort of language project to deal with these different and plural languages and cultures. The school headmaster kindly explained me that this is the first year they don’t have a welcome centre or reception room due to the state cutbacks. Therefore, they have no specific plan for attending diversity; they analyze each case individually and, depending on the specific needs of the student, they organize somehow an individual plan with their limited resources. It is the case, for instance, of a Bulgarian kid who started the course last September, without knowing a word in Catalan or Spanish. A teacher would follow and walk with him during the first months, guiding and teaching him individually basic concepts about the new language, school and culture. By now, this student doesn’t need individual support any more because he is showing remarkable progress, being able to follow a conversation and produce short well structured sentences. Nevertheless, he stills have some extra Catalan and Spanish classes, separately from the rest of the class, to achieve a become independent by the end of the present course.

The majority of the immigrants, as I mentioned before, are Moroccans, and always have a friend or colleague helping them enrolling their kids at school or translating the school meetings. These students usually are assigned a tutor to help them with the language acquisition during the first days, few hours a week, just to provide the extra help they need to grasp the basic concepts of the target language.

Chinese immigrants come to Spain due to family reconciliation; usually the father comes to establish a business or to find a job first and, once they’ve got enough economic stability, the rest of the family comes to gather and live together. Therefore, the father knows the language in advance and takes an important role to help kids at school. Apart from that, Chinese students are usually more capable to grasp the language than other students, because of the educational system they have in China. Then, school only provides tutoring help during the first months of the school year to obtain necessary language to follow the course independently afterwards.

How can this multicultural context be extended into a plurilingual approach?

Even though school staff is juggling to attend all students needs, there’s always something more that could be done. I believe, as a modest teacher, that students diversity languages are not taking into account in their school daily life, mainly because the lack of time and resources the school nowadays has. I would cope with diversity through some welcome projects at the beginning of the year, letting all school to know new arrivals culture and create then an exchange place where to share and learn about other cultures. Posters displayed at the corridor or the hall of the school will be the final result of this project, enabling everyone to see and learn from new cultures. The objectives of the project would be encouraging immigrants to share their heritage language and culture and promoting other languages to be learnt, as well as fostering values and language respect at the same time.

This could be done with the class tutor as a linguistic task or, if possible, with the help of support teachers who will guide the new students and help them performing the two tasks: shearing their cultural and language background while learning the common language spoken at school. This multicultural task would be presented by the immigrant students in Catalan or Spanish plus their mother tongue to their classmates, to cope with the two goals mentioned above: showing language progress and exchanging cultural facts.  I’m sure this heteroglossic project would provide immigrants enough confidence and security to become integrated into the new environment, into the new school. At the same time, native children, who are the audience of this project, would be exposed to a multicultural education which will enrich them as citizens of the world.

 

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