Multilingualism is a global norm and the number of languages found in every country gives a conclusion how multilingual the world is. J. Edwards wrote in the reference book, Multilingualism (1994), ” To be bilingual or multilingual is not the aberration supposed by many (particularly, perhaps, by people in Europe and North America who speak a ‘big’ language); it is rather a normal and unremarkable necessity for the majority in the world today ” (Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: Guide for Teacher Educators and Students, 2016). While many countries are composing different native languages, the mobility of individuals from one country to another are increasing that brings the education system into enormous challenge. How a school enriched the entrance of learners with diverse language? Transformation of education system today is necessary to embrace this kind of challenge and it is critical to the evolution teaching.
Political and economic motivations are not the only reasons for mobility increase because some people are moving for professional purposes. Another example is the children of multi-national couples and the children from minority language communities are forced to attend schools in which the language used was based from the majority of the population. A big portion of the world’s population speaks one or more of the thousands of minority languages. These are the reasons to overlooked the aspect of multilingualism and to promote multilingual education. Hence, the increase of linguistic heterogeneity and the increase of individuals mobility are the roots towards the use of multilingualism in the education around the world.
Cited by Catherine Young, et al. (2016)cited from Robinson (1993), 44 countries exhibits the characteristic of no majority ethno-linguistic group. This means in these countries no group comprises a majority language for more than 50% of the population. National Census, (2010) stated that in the Philippines Tagalog was the largest self-identified group in the 2010 national census, but still only made up 29% of the population. Therefore, our country is one those special countries who are likely to contact with other people of varies native laguages throughout their life. In education, since the Philippines is a very multilingual country, we come up to create a big question on how a Pilipino teacher deals with Pilipino learners who speak two or more languages? The multilingual nature of the Philippines poses a challenge for teachers in choosing what language to use as medium of instruction for teaching and learning.
MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION AND ITS IMPORTANCE
A word “multilingual” is an adjective meaning “of, having, or expressed in several languages” (Meriam Webster Dictionary). Cited from WordNet by Princeton University, another definition of multilingual is “using or knowing more than one language” while multilingualism is “the condition of being able to speak several languages” (Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: Guide for Teacher Educators and Students, 2016). Therefore a person or a group of persons who know how to use two or more language could be defined as multilingual person. In the context of education: a multilingual teacher is a teacher who can able to use several languages for teaching, a multilingual learner has some knowledge of more than one language that could be used for his/her learnings, a multilingual classroom is a classroom in which acquisition of knowledge and giving of instructions are done by several languages. According to Catherine Young, et al. (2016), “In multilingual education three or more languages are used in formal education, aiming to produce multilingual and multicultural citizens”.
Multilingualism in our country is not only in the hands of education or in the school administrator or in the teacher alone, rather the major role is in the government. It depends on the government planning on how to establish multilingual-friendly policies to education system in order to satisfy the needs of multilingual population. Multilingual education with national and local government agencies must provide technical assistance in the development of education policies, programs and materials for use specially in primary school. Such programs should focus on language development (listening, reading, writing and speaking) in the learners’ native language and in the official school language (required additional languages). The task of education is to create school systems that support the mobility and of being multilingual of the students and to provide education that supports the development of the students linguistically, cognitively, and emotionally. When multilingual policies appointed by the government and the task of education system was created, teachers should also make their classrooms more multilingual-friendly. For example, a teacher to his/her learners imparts the value of their native language, and also the importance of learning other languages. Inside the classroom, a teacher as a center and the most important among all instructional materials needs to be proficient in his/her students’ languages. If a teacher has no broad knowledge or does not know how to speak the varies languages of the learners, he/she may struggle to facilitate deeper discussions and there is a presence of gap on the interaction between the teacher and the learner which result to slow learning progress of the students. A child cannot succeed in school if he/she do not understand what the teacher is saying. Therfore, it is important for a teacher to have a general awareness of what languages are spoken by her student (Catherine Young, Michael Wilson I. Rosero, Firth McEachem, Xinia R. Skoropinski, Diane Dekker, Paraluman R. Giron, Ofelia O. Flojo, Magdalena R. Japson, Ruby Catherine G. Bañez, Brenda B. Corpuz, 2016).
” To have another language is to possess a second soul ”
-Charlemagne . King of the Franks and Lombards
BENEFITS OF MULTILINGUALISM
Negative attitudes towards multilingualism were common before the mid-20th century. As research has become more sophisticated, however, attitudes have changed. In the past few decades, cognitive scientists, psychologists, anthropologists, linguists, and even economics have identified a number of benefits associated with multilingualism, both individual and societal level (Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: Guide for teacher educators and students, 2016).Individual multilingualism refers to multilingual by a person and societal multilingualism is multilingual in a population.
The following table lists the advantages multilingual/bilingual individuals tend to have compared to monolingual individuals: (Catherine Young, Michael Wilson I. Rosero, Firth McEachem, Xinia R. Skoropinski, Diane Dekker, Paraluman R. Giron, Ofelia O. Flojo, Magdalena R. Japson, Ruby Catherine G. Bañez, Brenda B. Corpuz, 2016).
Table 1- Advantages of Multilinguals/Bilinguals Over Monolinguals
Personal Benefits Type of
Brain has improved executive function, increasing attention on problem-solving, puzzle solving, sorting, and other mental tasks.
Bialystok ; Martin (2004).
Heightened ability to monitor the environment, with greater efficiency Cognitive Bhattacharjee article (2012) about study by Costa et al.
Better at resolving conflicting information Cognitive Costa, Hernandez, ; Sebastian-Galles (2008).
Costa, Hernadez, Costa-Faidella, ; Sebastian-Galles (2009).
Better at memory generalization Cognitive Brito ; Barr (2012).
Can more efficiently switch between tasks Cognitive Prior ; MacWhinney (2010).
Prior ; Gollan (2011).
Faster at adapting to changes in trends/ patterns (due to enhanced cognitive control system) Cognitive Kovacs ; Mehler (2009).
Enhanced mental flexibility and brain plasticity Cognitive Peal ; Lambert (1962).
Zou, Ding, Abutalebi, Shu, ; Peng (2012).
Mechelli et al. (2004).
Can engage more neurons available for language processing than monolinguals Cognitive/
Linguistic Shalinsky, Kovelman, ; Berens study as cited in Medical News Today article: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/54422.php
More resistant to the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other cases of brain degeneration Cognitive/
Health Bialystok, Craik, & Freedman (2007).
Kave, Eyal, Shorek, & Cohen-Mansfield (2008).
Chertkow et al. (2010).
Luk, Bialystok, Craik, & Grady (2011).
Reduces decision-making biases Cognitive/
Psychological Keysar, Hayakawa, & An (2012).
Enhanced encoding of sound Cognitive/
Auditory Krizman, Marian, Shook, Skoe, & Kraus (2012).
Heightened creativity Cognitive/
Creative Maddux, Adam, &Galinsky (2010).
Advantages in learning new languages
Faster/better language acquisition
Easier to learn differences in sounds, word order, stress, rhythm, intonation, and grammatical structures of new languages Cognitive/
Petitto et al. (2012).
Kaushanskaya & Marian (2009).
Greater access to cultures and cultural output. In turn, this is likely to foster greater tolerance and appreciation for cultural differences Cultural/
Social Grin (2004).
Greater access to information Heuristic Grin (2004).
Can express oneself in more than one language and explore different facets of one’s personality Social-Emotional
More desirable for employment. This is particularly true for the healthcare, education, business, and travel industries. Economic Grin (2004).
People who speakmore than one language tend to have higher salaries, wider choice of jobs, and more interesting jobs Economic Grin, Sfreddo, ; Vaillancourt (2013).
The following table lists some of the benefits of linguistic diversity (and more generally, cultural diversity) in society as a whole: (Catherine Young, Michael Wilson I. Rosero, Firth McEachem, Xinia R. Skoropinski, Diane Dekker, Paraluman R. Giron, Ofelia O. Flojo, Magdalena R. Japson, Ruby Catherine G. Bañez, Brenda B. Corpuz, 2016).
Table 2 – Societal Benefits of Linguistic Diversity
Societal Benefits Type of Benefit Further Reading
Linguistic/ cultural diversity promotes diversity of voices, opinions, ideas, and innovation Social/
Economic Bokova (2012).
Languages offer unique philosophies, worldviews and indigenous knowledge system Social/
Philosophical Wurm, (Ed.) (2001).
Linguistic/cultural diversity provides more ways for people to communicate. When languages come into contact, they borrow and feed each other, enabling more flexible, nuanced, and inventive communication. Social Dalby (2003).
Linguistic diversity informs and enriches many fields of discipline, both in the arts and sciences.
Languages encode a huge amount of information about language development, characteristics, and change (linguistics);migration and other events of human history (history, human evolutionary biology); how humans interact and think (anthropology, psychology, philosophy); etc. Academic (historical, anthropological) Austin (2008).
Linguistic/cultural diversity allows for greater interaction between people of different backgrounds, providing learning opportunities to tolerate, appreciate, and embrace differences Social Dalby (2003).
Linguistic/cultural diversity of humans is related to ecological diversity and the two can bebefit each other. Environmental Maffi (Ed.) (2001).
Posey (Ed.) (2001).
Laanguages have economic value.
Languages are important to social and economic development.
Linguistic/cultural diversity leads to localized needs and encourages development of diverse, locally–responsive industries Economic Gorter et al. (c. 2006)
Onofri et al. (2010).
Different language groups have local knowledge about medicine and treatment, some of which are effective and undiscovered by mainstream science.
Language and cultural preservation help keep intact social systems for community health. Health McConvell ; Thieberger (2001).
McIvor, Napoleon, ; Dickie (2009).
Language as a tool for communication and as a bridge between the individual and the culture, people who learn and speak more than one language can easily appreciate other cultures and accept cultural differences wholly. In school, students will be more open minded towards cultural diversity because in multiligual education they themselves will experience different cultures. It also helps people to become adaptable to learn and adjust new things in a comfortable way. It is more important today for a students to be multilingual, because it would prepare them for future professions, enhance their social experiences and to preserve their cultural identity in a globalized society. Cited from http://www.socdem.org/en/why-our-school/the-advantages-of-a-trilingual-education, “Career prospects are multiplied many times over for people who speak a greater number of languages as the world has become smaller and more interconnected. People and companies that are involved in international business look to hire people that speak a greater number of languages and will be to relate to foreign clients and contacts”.
In multilingual education, learners are exposed to several languages that leads to encounter different cultures and this eventually adds knowledge to them. As their communication standards improved and knowledge accumulation increased, it may help them to achieve more choices for a brighter and successful career.
WEAKNESSES AND DISADVANTAGES OF MULTILINGUALISM
Nowadays, we can consider that being multilingual is a giant edge of an individual for applying a job outside the country or even here in our own country. I strongly believe that everyone can not possess a gift of speaking two or more than two languages fluently. Therefore a multilingual person is a gifted one. However, have you experienced sometimes that when you are keeping track of so many different things in your head may cause you to confuse? Just like when you are embarkig so many different languages in your brain, it may lend you to some confusion with the words of one language with another. Moreover, multilingual education requires a number of teachers who are proficient in both native language and the other additional languages. A number of teachers who are capable to handle the intense pressure and to manage a class of multilingual learners. Another problem which i can see in multilingual education is the possibility of “lack of proficiency” because I personally believe that obtaining fluency in multiple languages is very hard to achieved. Even a great multilingual speakers do not have proficiency in multiple languages. By nature we cannot speak all those languages at the same time that means our brain might choose only one language among others which would be spoken most of the time. In this way the use of other languages could be considerably restricted.
MOTHER TONGUE BASED-MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION IN THE PHILIPPINES
Our country is a very multilingual with a large number of languages are spoken within its area. One of the latest developments in the Philippine educational system is the Mother Tongue Based-Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) which refers to the use of learners’ native language as the language of instruction in Kindergarten to year three (K-3), while learning both Filipino and English as the second languages and being introduced as the language of instruction after grade three. Mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) is described by Diane Dekker (2010) as being ?more than just using the learners’ first language to explain curriculum content (p. 23). It emphasizes the importance of curriculum rooted in the local culture, as well as teaching methodology that promotes cognitive development and higher order thinking skills (Burton, 2013). MTB-MLE DepEd’s new policy, aims to strenghthen learning through developing native languages for effective impact on academic learning as well as the development of Filipino and English language. This alteration will helps learners for their achievements in the classroom to provide meaningful work opportunities in the future. Leena Huss (April 27, 2015) is qouted saying in an article on the Uppsala University website as cited by Catherine Young, et al., ” Young people who fight for their language become more actively involved in the community instead of feeling depressed or neglected. It’s my firm belief that this is a good thing for society”.
MTB-MLE uses the mother tongue or first language (L1) as the language of instruction while also developing Filipino and English as second language (L2). Starting in the language learners know best builds a strong foundation, which strenghthens their learning of other languages and academic content. I strongly believed that when learner’ s native language culture and experiences are ignored during the classroom interactions, this will cause of lossing their confidence. The rationale for the implementation of MTB-MLE is the attainment of stronger educational system to achieved stronger outcomes through better learning in the early stage, and to attain multilingualism. This implementation is anticipated to meet the needs of the country to face the 21st century learners.