Developing bilingual learning
strategies in mainstream and
community contexts
(ESRC-funded study 2006-07)
Charmian Kenner, Salman Al-Azami,
Eve Gregory, Mahera Ruby
Department of Educational Studies,
Goldsmiths College London
Bilingual learning:
aspects to investigate
Transfer of concepts (Cummins, 1984)
Translation/interpretation (Creese, 2004)
Linking with cultural worlds (Martin-Jones &
Saxena, 2003)
Increasing knowledge about how
language works (Bialystok, 2001)
Learner identities (Cummins, 1996; Creese,
Bhatt, Bhojani & Martin, 2006)
The research context
Two primary schools in Tower Hamlets, East London
Second/third generation British Bangladeshi children,
mostly more fluent in English than Sylheti/Bengali
(Bangla)
Children also attend community classes in Bengali
and/or Arabic
Achieving highly at primary school
So…is bilingual learning in mainstream
school relevant or necessary?
The children’s views
Participant children
School A
School B
Year 2 (age 7)
4 children
Year 2 (age 7)
4 children
Year 4 (age 9)
5 children
Year 6 (age 11)
4 children
Methodology: action research
Observe children in community class
Plan bilingual tasks in literacy and numeracy
for each group, relevant to mainstream curriculum,
linking with community class learning
Involve community and mainstream teachers in
planning
Children do task, watch video and comment
(stimulated recall)
Discuss data with teachers at end-of-term seminar
Repeat process in second term
Year 6 studying a chora
(Bengali poem)
Aspects of learning
Bengali literary heritage – poem contains metaphor
and imagery, also known to children as lullaby
Teacher keen to work on comparative literature:
compare with lullaby in English
Involve parents to understand poem more deeply
Use Reciprocal Reading strategy to share findings in
group
The chora: transliterated and translated
Aai aai chad mama Come come uncle moon
aai aai chad mama tip die ja
Come come uncle moon and touch the forehead
chader kopale chad tip die ja
Moon come and touch the forehead of the moon
dhan banle kuro debo
When the rice is made will give you the husk
mach katle muro debo
When the fish is cut will give you the head
kalo gaer dudh debo
Will give you the milk of the black cow
dudh khabar bati debo
Will give you the bowl for the milk
chader kopale chad tip die ja
Moon come and touch the forehead of the moon
Lullaby in English
Hush, Little Baby
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don’t sing,
Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.
And if that diamond ring turns to brass,
Papa’s gonna buy you a looking glass.
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa’s gonna buy you a billy goat.
And if that billy goat won’t pull,
Papa’s gonna buy you a cart and bull.
And if that cart and bull fall down,
You’ll still be the sweetest little baby in town.
Questions for parents
Comparison: Venn diagram
Reciprocal Reading
Sharing findings from parent interviews
Each child took a role: (eg questioner,
summariser)
Children added to or amended information
from interviews
Clarified their understanding of the chora
Took place entirely in English – why?
Further development
Rhythm of poems, using drums
Writing own poem with support from Nasima
(Teaching Assistant)
Creating bilingual display for school foyer
The children’s poem
Fruits
We get mangoes and jackfruits in
summer
White berries, black berries,
Black grapes, green grapes,
Yellow-coloured ripe bananas,
Green-coloured tender bananas,
Sour berries, sweet berries,
Taste very sweet.
Conceptual transfer
Understanding metaphor and imagery
through working in more than one language
Not straightforward transfer of ‘similar
concept’
Clarification of complex ideas through
discussion
Translation/interpretation
Transliteration as translation
Gives children and teacher access to chora
Enables children to express ideas in writing
Bridge between Sylheti and Standard Bengali
Interlingual and intralingual
Translation between phonic systems
Linking with cultural worlds
Learning more about ‘own culture’
Texts include different aspects of
children’s experience:
Bangla/school/popular culture
Venn diagram highlights differences in
cultural values / economic contexts
Own poem combines knowledge from
UK and Bangladesh
Learner identities
Children actively seeking connection to Bangladesh
through culture and language
Terms linking to home experience: chad mama
Teacher perceiving children as bilingual learners
Multiple identities can be expressed at school –
otherwise a ‘monolingual space’
Children’s comments on doing maths in
Bangla
You understand more (if you use both
languages)
It was different – in English you know what you
have to do
We'd like to know more about Bangla numbers
and operations....how to say it
Just liked it because it was different, liked it,
liked it
You can learn in two different ways
And it's our mother tongue and we don't know
much about it
The crucial role of the mainstream school
in supporting language maintenance
2nd and 3rd generation children in Miami are
losing their Spanish competence unless they
are schooled in Spanish – despite living in a
substantial Latino community where Spanish
is regularly used in the business and social
infrastructure
(Eilers, Pearson and Cobo-Lewis, 2006)
References
Cummins, J. (1984) Language proficiency, bilingualism and academic
achievement. Chapter 6 in Bilingualism and Special Education.
Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.
Creese, A. (2004) Bilingual teachers in mainstream secondary
classrooms: using Turkish for curriculum learning. International Journal
of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 7 (2), 189-203.
Martin-Jones, M. and Saxena, M. (2003) Bilingual resources and ‘funds
of knowledge’ for teaching and learning in multi-ethnic classrooms in
Britain. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 6
(3), 267-282.
Bialystok, E. (2001) Bilingualism in Development: Language, Literacy
and Cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cummins, J. (1996) Negotiating Identities: Education for Empowerment
in a Diverse Society. Ontario, CA: California Association for Bilingual
Education.
Creese, A., Bhatt, A., Bhojani, N. and Martin, P. (2006) Multicultural,
heritage and learner identities in complementary schools. Language
and Education 20 (1), 23-43.
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Developing bilingual learning strategies in mainstream and