Language Diversity: communicative potentialities of an Awakening to Languages approach


Thursday 7 November, 11.30-12.00, B1005

In a world where learning foreign languages is becoming more and more a valuable asset to soar in the academic field and to enter the job market successfully, we notice a constant concern of educational authorities with the introduction of a foreign language in the school curricula as early as possible. Educational institutions perceive it not only as a way of preparing students to become proficient in as many languages as possible, but also as an approach to eliciting awareness about linguistic and cultural diversity and, therefore, preparing future job seekers to adapt to any cultural and linguistic environment they may encounter in their work places. Along with this sensitization to otherness, learning foreign languages can also be seen as a way of developing communicative competence in the mother tongue itself, a skill that is so valued as well in the job market.

In the past decade, in many European countries and in Portugal in particular, schools have started to implement various projects of sensitization to different languages starting at pre-school. They believe these programs may contribute significantly to the beginning of this process of awareness of others, as well as to the development of the communicative competence of children. 

Our presentation gathers the opinion of several authors, putting together research findings that allow us to identify some reasons and advantages of early sensitization to language diversity, and presenting the results of an in-progress PhD study carried out by us with two groups of Portuguese pre-school children with which we worked on four foreign languages (English, Spanish, French and Italian) for three months. The results not only seem to demonstrate the acceptability of all the four foreign languages by all the children but also seem to indicate that exposing children to several languages can enrich the language activities worked at pre-school, contributing for a considerable development of the children’s communicative skills in general. 

Bibliographic References:
Beacco, J.-C. e Byram, M. (2007). De la diversité linguistique à l’éducation Plurilingue - Guide pour l’Élaboration des politiques linguistiques éducatives en Europe. Strasbourg: Conseil de l’Europe. 
Byram, M. e Zarate, G. (1995). Young people facing difference. Some proposals for teachers. Language Learning for European Citizenship and European Youth Campaign against Racism, Xenophobia, Anti-Semitism and Intolerance. Strasbourg: Conselho da Europa
Candelier, M. (Ed); Andrade, A.I; Bernaus, M.; Kervran, M.; Martins, F.; Murkowska, A.; Noguerol, A.; Oomen-Welke, I.; Perregaux, C.; Saudan, V.; Zielinska, J. (2004), Janua Linguarum – The gateway to languages. The introduction of language awareness into the curriculum: Awakening to languages. Council of Europe Publishing.
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Quadro Europeu Comum de Referência para as Línguas: Aprendizagem, Ensino, Avaliação. Available online at (consultado a 30 Julho 2009, 17h48)
Vygotsky, L.S. (1991b). Pensamento e Linguagem. São Paulo: Martins Fontes (3ª edição).