The Difference Between Multilingualism and Plurilingualism, Simplified

February 20, 2018

Sarah Eaton - blog - iStock photoStudents sometimes ask me what the difference is between multilingualism and plurlingualism. Because these concepts are also linked to monolingualism and bilingualism, I’ll explain each one here.

Monolingualism – The ability to speak only one language proficiently.

Bilingualism – The ability to speak two languages proficiently (though not necessarily perfectly).

Multilingualism – The ability to speak many languages proficiently (though not necessarily perfectly).

Plurilingualism – The capacity and competence to learn more than one language, as well as the value of linguistic tolerance within individuals and countries. It is associated with intercultural competence and democratic citizenship. This term is often used to talk about language education and policy. (For more details, see Council of Europe source referenced below.)

When we talk about proficiency, we are usually talking about a person’s ability to communicate in a language. Sometimes people also call this fluency, though the two terms have different meaning to those with linguistic training.

Please note, linguists and those with training in second language acquisition may (rightfully) contend that these definitions are simplified. My objective here is to offer clear and straightforward explanations, without too much technical jargon. If you are interested in digging deeper into these concepts, I encourage you to explore some of the resources I have listed in the references.

References:

Boeckmann, K. B., Aalto, E., Abel, A., Atanasoska, T., & Lamb, T. (2011). Promoting plurilingualism – Majority language in multilingual settings  Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Andrea_Abel/publication/259507522_Promoting_plurilingualism_-_Majority_language_in_multilingual_settings/links/0deec52c5967de1a36000000.pdf

Council of Europe. (2007). From linguistic diveristy to plurilingual education: Guide for the development of language education policies in Europe. Retrieved from https://rm.coe.int/16802fc1c4

Psaltou-Joycey, A., & Kantaridou, Z. (2009). Plurilingualism, Language Learning Strategy Use and Learning Style Preferences. International Journal of Multilingualism, 6(4), 460-474.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

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Resources for learning and teaching Arabic

January 7, 2014

https://i1.wp.com/img.ehowcdn.com/article-new-thumbnail/ehow/images/a05/6m/ih/learn-arabic-writing-800x800.jpgThis semester I am involved in a Calgary Board of Education (CBE) pilot project to teach Arabic in a blended learning course at the high school level. I’ve been working with a fantastic team of educators comprised of an instructional designer, a curriculum development specialist and a native speaker of Arabic who will take on the challenge of helping the students learn. Here are some resources for others who are interested in teaching or learning Arabic online.

20 Free online resources for teaching and learning Arabic

Professional Resources for K-12 Arabic Educators (Harvard University) – http://cmes.hmdc.harvard.edu/files/NEAAT15Oct2011Materials.pdf

Arabic K-12 Teachers Network – http://www.arabick12.org/materials/websites/teacher_sites.html

American Association of Teachers of Arabic (Resources page) – http://aataweb.org/arabic_resources

Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (Arabic) – http://www.coerll.utexas.edu/coerll/projects/arabic

Becker’s Arabic page – http://www.uni.edu/becker/arabic.html

National Middle East Language Resource Center – http://nmelrc.org/Arabic

E-Arabic Learning – http://www.dur.ac.uk/daniel.newman/elearn.html

Arabic Voices (Listening comprehension) – University of Texas at Austin – http://www.laits.utexas.edu/aswaat/index.php

Arabic Online – http://www.arabiconline.eu/resources/

University of London Language Centre – Arabic Resources – http://www.soas.ac.uk/languagecentre/teachers/resources/arabic/

UCLA Language Materials Project (Various entries for Arabic Resources) – http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/Default.aspx

National Capital Language Resource Center (Arabic) – http://www.nclrc.org/teaching_materials/materials_by_language/arabic.html

Comprehensive list of resources from Mohamed Esa, McDaniel College – http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/german/startalk-arabic/ArabicLanguageCultureResources..pdf

National Foreign Language Center – Online Reading Skills Lessons in Arabic – http://readarabic.nflc.org/?page=to_the_learner

Arabic Language Resource website – http://www.azifoon.com/arabic-learners/online.htm

Institute for Innovation in Second Language Education (IISLE) – Arabic resources – https://sites.google.com/a/share.epsb.ca/languages-epsb-ca/arabic/opportunities-for-parents

Language Acquisition Resource Center – Arabic – http://larc.sdsu.edu/arabic/

Teachers of Critical Languages (Arabic) – http://www.tclprogram.org/TCLP/lessonPlansBrowse.php?cat=233&programCat=1

Arabic Without Walls (UC Davis) – http://arabicwithoutwalls.ucdavis.edu/aww/

We Love Arabic (blog) – http://welovearabic.wordpress.com/

Bonus resources (books)

Ryding, K. C. (2013). Teaching and learning Arabic as a foreign language. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Find out more at: http://press.georgetown.edu/book/languages/teaching-and-learning-arabic-foreign-language

Wahba, K. M., Taha, Z. A., & England, L. (2006). Handbook for Arabic language teaching professionals in the 21st century. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Eloquent is the new sexy

October 25, 2013

Glenn Hetrick: Long-hair, tattoos and a literary vocabulary so big you’ll be gob-smacked.

I have noticed a scintillating trend in entertainment lately. From Glenn Hetrick, judge on Syfy Network’s TV show, Face Off, to social critic comedian, Russell Brand, there’s a new kind of sexy hitting the screen: Eloquence.

It is not board-room, corporate speak jargon, but real English. It is the use of verbs more interesting than “get” and “have”. It is sentences replete with subordinate clauses that are artfully woven together. It’s linguistic prowess at its best.

Hetrick critiques the work of make-up artists competing on a reality show. In a YouTube clip that shows Hettrick offering formative evaluations to competitors, Hetrick’s feedback succinct, precise and pithy. The summative feedback he offers at the end of every show is articulate and poignant. Unlike other TV show judges, Hetrick avoids profanity and F-bombs. He cuts straight to the heart of the matter without ever being vulgar.

Brand weaves words like “vitriolic”, “indefatigably”, and “litigious” into his interviews with anti-gay guests on his TV show, all while he mocks the infantile language shown on the placards brought in by his guests. Brand peppers his eloquence with blue collar vernacular such as, “Bloody ‘ell!” and the occasional “ain’t”.

Neither Hetrick nor Brand are Oxford-educated, wear suits or show any signs of being pompous. Instead, they are “men of the people”, with a healthy dose of rebel in them. They are raw, real and compassionate with in-your-face honesty. They go against traditional conventions in terms of their image. Sporting tattoos and long hair, both have an air of being unapologetically subversive. These men exude sexiness because they know who they are and what they stand for.

One thing they stand for is eloquence. Not only do they consistently use proper grammar, they both have the ability to create verbally majestic sentences when they speak. Their language is lyrical and fluid, flowing naturally from one phrase to the next. Their delivery is powerful and compelling. We listen to them and we want to hear more.

I am fascinated by these examples of linguistic elegance. That kind of loquacity takes years to develop. Their language is a cultivated as any Ph.D., but without any hint of being pretentious.

There’s a new kind of sexy on the screen. It is man with a staggeringly large vocabulary — who knows how to wield it.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Op/Ed: Modern foreign language programs don’t prepare students for the work force – The University of Alberta example

August 19, 2013

Warning: This post may offend literary scholars and literary theorists.

One of Canada’s most reputable institutions of higher learning, the University of Alberta, announced today that it is cutting 20 arts programs. Languages and culture programs are taking the brunt of the cuts. Included in the cuts are undergraduate major programs in classic languages, Italian, Russian and Ukrainian. A full list of the cut programs can be found here.

For years I’ve said to my colleagues that languages programs that focus mainly on literature and culture are doomed. I agree that there is immense value in learning literature and culture, but the reality is that it won’t get you a job — unless you want to become a literature professor.

Employers looks at people with literature degrees and ask themselves, “What can you do for us?”

I remember sitting in a department meeting 15 years ago asking if we could incorporate courses in foreign languages for business and commerce?

My colleagues who were literature experts hissed at me. I became an instant heretic. The suggestion was tantamount to treason in a department where the senior professors were literary scholars.

I was proposing specifically that we incorporate language and culture courses of a more practical nature that students could use as viable and marketable professional skills to position themselves for success in the global job market.

Consider the difference between these two scenarios:

Scenario #1:

Prospective Employer: So, I see you did a major in Italian. Tell me more about that.

Italian major graduate: I learned about Dante, Petrarch and major Italian literature, along with grammar, structure and syntax.

Prospective Employer: How would you use what you learned on the job?

Italian major graduate: I’m not really sure…

This is the reality of most modern language majors today. They learn about literature, culture, art and history, but without concrete skills that are easily transferred to the work place. Employers can’t make those links either. The value that languages major brings to an organization have never been made explicit.

(In case you  think I’m exaggerating about the kinds of topics Italian majors learn about, I took my example from the current University of Alberta web page on Italian studies course offerings, though I suspect the web page will be defunct before too long…)

Scenario #2:

Prospective Employer: So, I see you did a major in Italian. Tell me more about that.

Italian major graduate: Unlike traditional programs in modern languages, the one I took was modernized to include courses in Italian business language and professional culture. The courses I took introduced me to fundamental business language in Italian so I can converse more easily with clients, as well as understand how business is conducted in Italy, including cultural norms and social expectations in the Italian workplace. I also took courses in current issues that included a survey of key political and economic factors that allows me to understand the situation in Italy today, as well as where it is headed tomorrow.

The value that this graduate would bring to an organization is much greater. It is difficult to internalize the nuances of foreign business practices. It goes beyond knowing how to dress or greet one another. The subtleties are vast and almost impossible to learn without guidance — for any foreign culture.

I say this as someone with two degrees — a bachelor’s and a Master’s — in literature. I loved studying literature. It goes without saying that we need to teach students critical thinking skills and that learning about culture is important to understand the human race. I learned first hand what it meant to live under the poverty line for a number of years in my adult life. My degrees in literature did not prepare me for the work force. I had to learn to market my skills in other ways. Only then was I able to pull myself ahead of the low-income cut-off (LICO) line. It was a long road and one that my colleagues with full-time tenured positions as literature professors are unlikely to understand.

The days of the self-indulgent scholar are quickly coming to an end. The romanticized version of a scholar puzzling over pile of ancient texts is quickly fading. I’m not suggesting there is no value in learning ancient texts and literature. I’m saying that surrounding yourself with ancient texts is not a viable career option for most language and culture students of the 21st century.

For years literary theorists in institutions of higher learning have stubbornly refused to entertain the idea of expanding modern language and culture programs beyond literature. We could call it professional hubris. The repercussions are that modern foreign language programs are now being cut. It makes me feel sad, but I can’t help wondering if international language programs that focus solely on literature and art aren’t doing a disservice to their graduates?

Imagine what would happen if we taught our students how to navigate cultural differences in the workplace, adapt to global professional environments and learn basic workplace vocabulary, rather than literary terminology. Imagine how we could help our students understand clearly and explicitly the value their foreign language and cultural skills bring to an employer, regardless of whether that employer is corporate, government or non-profit.

It’s not about selling out to corporate consumerism. It’s about giving our students professional opportunities outside the literary realm. There are more jobs outside the literary realm than inside it. Why wouldn’t we want to create opportunities for our students to be successful in other sectors, too?

What’s your take on all this? Should foreign language programs that focus on literature, art and culture be saved? What needs to be done to revitalize and revamp foreign language programs to make them more viable?

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


Spanish for Dentists: 6 Great (and Free!) Resources

February 13, 2013

Teeth - smile - smallI unexpectedly had to go to the dentist this week when a filling broke in half and part of it fell out. During my visit, my dentist was telling me about her plans to take her entire team to Guatemala next year to do some pro bono work in poor communities there.

She asked me if I had any resources on Spanish for dentists. I set off on a bit of a quest. Here are six wonderful, free online resources that I found to help English-speaking dentists and dental hygienists learn the basics so they can communicate with Spanish-speaking patients:

  1. English to Spanish Phrase Guide for Dentists – http://www.deltadentalins.com/dentists/guidance/english-spanish-phrase-guide.html
  2. PracticingSpanish.Com – Spanish for Dentists – http://www.practicingspanish.com/dental-exam.html
  3. Spanish for the Dental Office  – https://www.aetnadental.com/AD/ihtAD/r.WSIHW000/st.35410/t.706081.html
  4.  Spanish Words and Phrases for Dentists – http://www.artofteeth.com/files/Spanish_for_Dentists.pdf
  5. Spanish Guide of Dental Terminology – http://lrc.wfu.edu/community_interpreting/extras/editeddental.pdf
  6. English-Spanish Dictionary of Health Related Terms – http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/spanish/engspdict.pdf

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


UNESCO’s free advocacy kit for promoting multilingual education

October 24, 2012

UNESCO multilingualism Sarah Elaine Eaton blogUNESCO has a number of initiatives on the go to promote multilingual, bilingual and mother-tongue education. They have come out with a new advocacy kit designed to help raise awareness about the importance of multilingual education. The toolkit is for:

  • education practitioners (teachers)
  • education specialists (learning leaders)
  • policy makers

The kit is a 109-page free, downloadable .pdf. It is very cool. Get yours here.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


5 Tips to make writing easier

October 4, 2012

This past spring I taught a course on Writing Educational Research to a group of Master’s students, most of whom taught English as an Additional Language as their job. I was surprised how many of them loathed writing. One student said that she was reluctant to teach writing in her EAL courses because it felt like forcing a traumatic experience on them.

Over the course of the six-weeks we learned together, we came up with some strategies that they could use for themselves, and also use with their students. Here they are:

1. Write every day. Saying, “I’m going to write my essay on the weekend,” can turn the weekend into a time of torture instead of a time to relax and recharge your batteries. Instead, commit to writing 30 minutes per day. This helps build the writing habit.

2. Choose a time of the day when you feel fresh and creative.  For me, that time is often first thing in the morning. By mid-afternoon I am crashing and after supper my brain seems capable of basic life support only. In the morning is when I feel both creative and clear-headed.

3. Work with a writing partner. Choose someone you get along with and like to work with. Arrange a time to work together to review each other’s writing, make suggestions and do some peer editing. The point of working together is to try to help each other, not to nit pick. Set some ground rules and focus on the positive.

4. Let go. Some students said they hated writing because they couldn’t tolerate being criticized or being asked to revise their writing. They became very emotionally attached to their writing right away. What if the purpose of writing was to share it? And share it in the best form possible? If we start with that idea, then we might become less emotionally tethered to the writing… You can still be proud of your work without having a  Gollum-like attachment to it.

5. Edit and revise. It is said that Mozart never revised his music. He sat down, wrote it and was done. Unfortunately, most of us are not Mozart. I recently submitted the second revision of an article I submitted to a peer-reviewed academic journal. It was “accepted with minor revisions” when I first submitted it. That was almost six months ago. I made the changes the reviewers requested and re-submitted it. Then recently, the editor came back to me with a few more minor changes. He was right in asking me to change a few more things. I had forgotten to add in some citations, which are important in journal articles. I made the changes and sent the manuscript back again. I had been so close to the work, I could no longer see the errors. Working with editors, reviewers and instructors is really a chance to make your writing better.

Writing seems to be very easy for some people and very painful for others. These strategies may help a few reluctant writers and ease their stress so writing does not seem so daunting.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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