Thinking about multilingualism from the children’s point of view

One of the key messages that was most striking from last Thursday’s workshop ‘Imagining Inclusivity:  The role of language in an increasingly diverse Ireland’ (full report to follow) was the need to think about multilingualism from the children’s point of view.  Across the talks and discussions afterwards in the workshop, we as academics, practitioners, and community members all acknowledged that as adults, we often tend to shape policy and practice around our own framings and experiences of language, e.g.:

Language learning language is hard.  

Multilingualism is a challenge to be overcome.

Our own linguistic ‘baggage’ (e.g. negative attitudes towards a particular minority language(s))

However, this appears radically different from how children in Ireland today think about language.  What emerged from the talks was that they don’t see multilingualism as a ‘challenge’ but rather, as something shiny and new.  They take pride in being able to speak and read in different languages and in learning new ways to communicate with their peers and adults alike.  In order to move towards a more ‘inclusive Ireland,’ we need to adopt their perspective.  We need to drop this discourse of multilingualism as a societal challenge, and move towards seeing it as a part of a vibrant, thriving society. 

Now is the time to follow the children’s lead in moving towards a more inclusive Ireland.

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