Language-as-Resource: Language strategies used by New Zealand teachers working in an international multilingual setting
Language-as-Resource: Language strategies used by New Zealand teachers working in an international multilingual setting
Nicola Daly 0
0 University of Waikato
University of Waikato, New Zealand
Multilingual classrooms are an increasing feature of schools worldwide, in part due to
immigration in response to poverty and war but also as part of efforts to maintain minority or
(European Commission, 2015; UNESCO, 2007)
. These classrooms are
places where learners have different linguistic and cultural backgrounds, where they may
speak one language at home and another language at school, where teachers and students
may not share a common language or cultural background, and where some or all of the
students are learning the language of instruction as a second language. These international
agencies, including UNICEF (2016) also recognise the contribution that multilingual
education can make to engaging diverse learners. In addition to supporting academic
achievement, students using multiple languages can also assist in the development of positive
identities associated with home culture.
Drawing on their research in multilingual settings,
Planas and Setati-Phakeng (2014)
describe three perspectives that impact on language policies and multilingual classroom
practices: language-as-problem, language-as-right and language-as-resource. The
languageas-problem perspective considers language as something that creates challenges that need to
be resolved. In this view, teachers may view students? limited English as a handicap to be
overcome and corrected through a focus on intensive language teaching. Language-as-right
emphasises the protection of minority language groups since everyone has the right to be
educated in her/his home language. Planas and Setati-Phakeng note that while
language-asright supports the use the students? home languages as the language of learning and
instruction, this often comes with the stigma of being a ?non-English? language, and
pedagogical strategies and policies based on language-as-problem and language-as-right can
have unintended effects on different language groups of students by decreasing their access
to classroom learning opportunities and interaction. By contrast, the language-as-resource
perspective encourages the use of multiple languages during teaching. Planas and
SetatiPhakeng see a language-as-resource approach as increasing the learning opportunities of all
learners by focusing on both academic content and language. Research
Mady & Garbarti, 2014; Moschkovich, 2007)
suggests that students can use their first
language and accompanying strategies as a means to improve their second language learning.
The New Zealand Curriculum
(Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 16)
?students who are new learners of English or coming into an English medium environment
for the first time need explicit and extensive teaching of English vocabulary, word forms,
sentence and text structures, and language uses?. There are therefore pressures on mainstream
teachers to ?provide appropriate teaching environments and strategies which are effective in
engaging culturally and linguistically diverse students. The New Zealand Ministry of
(Ministry of Education, 2008)
through the English Language Learning
Progressions (ELLPs) documents does provide some support for mainstream teachers in their
work with English Language Learners. Teachers are advised to allow and encourage students
to continue to learn in and through their first language and bilingual education is advocated.
Teachers are also informed that code switching, or the movement between languages in a
single speech act
(Adler, 1998; Kumar & Narenda , 2012; Macaro, 2005)
, is a normal part of
second language learning.
However, the implementation of these strategies and advice is patchy at best, and the
existence of the ELLPs doesn't necessarily mean that New Zealand teachers themselves
encourage home language development or encourage code switching. When asked about the
use of English only, versus encouraging teachers to use students' home languages in the
classroom in schools in Auckland, 50% of teachers and managers responded favourably to
having an English only environment, whilst the other 50% responded with a desire to have an
environment that fosters and encourages bilingual interactions
. Many teachers
have minimal training in teaching English language learners in mainstream contexts
(Edwards, 2012; Siebert, & Draper, 2008)
. A study by Edwards (2012), albeit small-scale,
revealed that only eight of eighteen teachers interviewed had had some training in teaching
English language learners, either as part of their teaching qualification or as a separate
The research presented in this article relates to work by volunteer New Zealand
teachers supporting teachers with no formal teacher education in Northern India. The New
Zealand teacher support organisation began in 2003 when the founder, a New Zealand school
librarian, visited Cape Town, South Africa with a women?s soccer team she was managing.
While there she visited an organisation which provides shelter for the homeless and she
noticed that there was a school running for the children of the Ark residents. The teachers in
the school had no formal teacher education and on her way home she pondered this situation,
and wondered what she could do to help. This led to the development of teacher support
programmes delivered by trained New Zealand teachers in Cape Town, then Tanzania and
(see Daly & Sharma, 2017 for more details)
. The programme in Northern India
began when the head of an organisation running schools for the poor heard of the teacher
support programmes in Africa. The first teacher support programme was offered in Northern
India in 2010.
India is an even more linguistically and culturally diverse country than New Zealand.
Bose and Choudhury (2010)
and Kumar and Narenda (2012) state that although Hindi is the
national and the official language, English, the associate official language, enjoys a special
status that is associated with the international recognition as well as the colonial history. The
language policy in education is seen to be in line with the fact that both societal and
individual multilinguism are the global norm in the modern world.
The above multilingual contexts in India and New Zealand have implications for the
education of children, especially those whose home language is different from the medium of
instruction. Educational research
(Goldenberg, 2008; Mady & Garbarti, 2014; Schleppegrell,
shows that when students learn concepts in a language other than their home language,
this can result in learning of a poor quality. Students have to grapple with the language of
teaching as well as the concepts taught. It is important for teachers to make pedagogical
modifications, some of which can be aimed at building language proficiency and some of
which may be designed to give them greater access to academic content. There are a number
of strategies which may be used by the classroom teacher in order to aid cognition and
language learning. In this article we explore the observations and reported practice of New
Zealand teachers working with Indian teachers using English as the medium of instruction.
Specifically, the research question addressed in this article is:
What strategies did New Zealand teachers observe and report using with Indian
colleagues when delivering a teacher support programme in a multilingual
The rest of the paper is divided into three sections. The first section draws on research
in multicultural settings to discuss the challenges faced by language learners. After outlining
the research approach used to collect data in this study, the paper presents and discusses the
findings. Next limitations and implications of study are considered. The final section draws
conclusions from the study
Challenges and Strategies in Multilingual Educational Settings
The research literature describes many language strategies that teachers can use to
address some of the language challenges faced when the language medium of instruction is
different to the home language(s) of students in an educational setting. In this paper,
?language strategies? means being able to facilitate learning in a multilingual setting. The
ESL (English as a Second Language) reform movement
(National Council of Teachers? of
English National Council, 2008)
has emphasised that language must be learned
simultaneously with content development. However, this situation can present some
challenges as students learning in a language which is not their home language need to
simultaneously learn, for example, ordinary English and discipline English, and be able to
differentiate between these two types of English
(Halai, 2009; Kasmer, 2013; Moschkovich,
explains this issue using a mathematical context in Pakistan. She claims
that for understanding the mathematical ideas and concepts, one has to be able to understand
the instruction-language, which means, if the instruction-language is foreign to the learner
then it becomes a "double" task of learning both the "foreign" language as well as the
mathematics that is being taught ? all at the same time. She suggests that this problem can be
addressed only by allowing the movement between the languages used in the class, known as
"code-switching" According to Kumar and Narenda (2012) avoiding shifting between
languages is almost an impossible task among English Language learners.
The research literature provides many examples of the tension between home and
school languages, examining the presence and use of students? home languages, or practices
such as code-switching
(Clarkson, 2007; Kumar & Narenda, 2012; Macaro, 2005)
(2007) explains how English Language Learners may comprehend target language texts using
their first learnt language (L1). He claims that the first language scaffolds semantic
processing, while if a learner were to process the input exclusively in second language/formal
language of instruction, then s/he might run into trouble handling syntactically complex
sentences. Hence translation is not always beneficial or reliable as it might not reflect the
exact meaning. According to Clarkson, the exact meaning can be retained by replacing a few
words in L2 with words from L1. Thus the use of code switching helps in such situations for
better understanding and comprehension.
In Adler?s (1998) study six teachers from South Africa were observed to code switch
in order to focus or regain student attention, to translate or clarify information, to reinforce
lesson material, and to reformulate and model language. Adler?s results indicate that moving
between school language and home language is not clear cut. This situation raises what
calls the dilemma of mediation. Teachers need to both listen to and validate the
perspectives learners bring, while at the same time moving from informal to formal discourse
(Mady & Garbarti, 2014)
Neville-Barton and Barton (2005)
looked at tensions as experienced by Chinese
Mandarin-speaking students in New Zealand English-medium schools. Specifically, their
study focused on the difficulties that could be attributed to limited proficiency with the
English language. It also sought to identify language features that might have created
difficulties for students. Two tests were administered, seven weeks apart. In each, one half of
the students sat the English version and the other half sat the Mandarin version, each student
experienced both versions. There was noticeable difference in their performances on the two
versions of the tests. On average the students were disadvantaged in the English test by 15%.
Neville- Barton and Barton reported that syntax of mathematics discourse created problems
for the students. In particular, prepositions, word order and interpretations of difficulties
arising out of the contexts. In addition, the researchers found that the teachers of the students
were not aware of the students? misunderstandings.
Switching between languages can add an extra layer of challenge to the language
learners, as they may find themselves working between a multitude of registers in both the
medium of instruction and their home language
(Mady & Garbarti, 2014; Schleppegrell,
. In a multilingual setting, students can miss out on learning because they may be
spending too much time trying to understand the instructions and question and to shift
between informal and formal ways of communicating ideas.
This research comes from an interpretivist paradigm
(Cohen, Manion & Morrison,
using qualitative data generated from semi-structured interviews concerning
experiences of working in a multilingual setting with the seven participants
& Morrison, 2011)
. After ethical approval was obtained, the interviews (between 30-50
minutes) were conducted by Skype or Google Hangout at a time that suited the participants,
usually in the evening, and were recorded. It should be noted that the participants were
interviewed two weeks after their visit to India so their responses were based on recall. The
interview recordings were summarised, and these summaries were sent back to the
participants for approval before analysis commenced.
The volunteer programme described in this article is set in a regional city of Northern
India at a conference and retreat centre with on-site accommodation, a lecture hall, and break
out rooms. The organisation which runs this facility also run six schools in the region and in
Delhi, providing schooling for underprivileged children. The teachers who teach in these
schools have no formal teacher education and speak a range of languages including Hindi,
English and a range of regional languages including Punjabi, Tamil and Marathi, and over the
last six years, a team of New Zealand teachers (under the banner of a New Zealand based
NGO) has provided teacher support in a one week intensive programme for these teachers. It
is the observations and experiences about language use of the volunteer New Zealand
teachers who participated in this programme which is the focus of this article.
The Teacher Support Programme In India
The teacher support programme offered in India has always consisted of a one week
intensive programme of lectures and group work with the teachers from all six schools
(approximately 40), who gather at the residential facility for that week which is usually just
before school returns for the start of a new year after a holiday break. The pattern followed is
that the group of New Zealand volunteers meet before travelling to India, and based on
feedback gathered at the end of the previous year?s programme and their own observations,
they devise the programme. The programme generally consists of a whole group session
(something like a lecture) at the start of the day. After morning tea, there is group work based
on the morning?s lecture. After lunch there is a mid-day break before the final session, also in
small groups, but often focused on particular curriculum areas, or year levels. After dinner
there are fun activities for the whole family; often the teachers have brought their children
with them. All meals are eaten together, and everyone stays on site during the programme.
The participants in this research consist of seven New Zealand educators who were
part of the NGO team in July 2016 (see Table 1). There were six women, and one male. Of
the six women, there were three trained primary teachers (one a Deputy Principal), one Early
Childhood Education teacher and two teacher educators (the authors). The male volunteer
(Bob) was a primary school principal. Five of the participants (Bob, Sigma, Lily, Freddie)
were returning to India on a second/third or fourth trip. One participant (Sally) was on her
third trip, but her first to India, and two participants (TJ and Marian) were on their first trip.
English, some Hindi
English, some te reo
The seven interview summaries were analysed thematically
(see Braun & Clarke,
. The two researchers met and examined the interview summaries for topics which were
re-occurring in the interviews. These themes were then coded in the summaries, and a second
meeting was had to discuss whether the themes were supported, and if any themes needed to
be divided or blended.
Findings and Discussion
The purpose of this study was to explore strategies observed and used by New
Zealand teachers when delivering a teacher support programme in a multilingual educational
This section is divided according to two key themes arising out of the interview
transcripts: language use in the teacher support programme and strategies used by New
Zealand teachers. The discussion will be supported by the use of the participants? voice
through direct quotes and relevant literature.
Language Use in the Teacher Support Programme
As mentioned above, translators were used in the programme during whole group
lecture-like sessions at the start of each day, and in small group sessions later in the day. The
whole group session translators were experienced and fluent English and Hindi speakers and
they translated the speech of the New Zealand teacher phrase-by-phrase from English into
Hindi, standing beside them at the front of the room. The small group translators were
sometimes less experienced, but also fluent speakers of English and Hindi. When asked
?How did you find being translated?? three of the New Zealand teacher participants (Bob,
Lily, Sigma) said that they did not mind being translated. For example, Bob reflected: ?I
quite like being translated. Over the years I am able to understand what they are saying. I get
a general idea of what they are trying to say.? Thus, for Bob being translated was a positive
experience which enabled him to learn some Hindi.
Being translated at the front of the whole group sessions took a bit of getting used to
for some other participants. They had to use short phrases, watch sentence structures, speak
slowly and consider vocab choices in order to help the translators. For example, TJ reported:
?In the whole group setting, the English speaker went first and had to chunk
what they said into manageable chunks, so the translator could follow what was
being said. If the English speaker got carried away, the translator would have to
jump in. In smaller groups, we relied on the translator to make a call as to
whether translation was needed. Sometimes we got that right and other times we
may have missed times when people didn?t understand.?
Sally noted that ?sometimes you needed to check in with translators as to whether
what you were talking about was culturally appropriate. So, the translator played a big part.?
Although Lily found being translated fine, every time she had to adjust and slow her speech
down and think about her sentence structures so they were not too complicated. She would
stop regularly so that the translator could follow her speech. In a lecture sometimes a
translator would ask questions to decide what to translate for Lily. When the class was in
small tutorial groups Lily would stop to allow the translator to make sense of what she was
saying because they were not directly translating speech word by word. Lily reported that she
really worked with the translators to ensure that the message she was aiming to give was
As can be seen in Table 1, some of the New Zealand teachers had some Hindi;
however, even with these linguistic resources, all the New Zealand teachers interviewed
mentioned the challenge of language and communication when teaching using a language of
instruction (English) which not all Indian teachers had a fluent familiarity with. All of the
New Zealand teachers were aware that even though Hindi was used by the translators it was
not the strongest language for some of the Indian teachers, so there were probably some
secondary translations going on among the Indian teachers. Hence at times messages and
ideas may have been translated several times and one never knew what the final result
was. TJ thought that sometimes the intended meaning was lost, not only because of meaning
being misconstrued, but also because not all of the audience understood Hindi. TJ?s
experience of being translated led her to realise the limitations of using translation as a
teaching tool. Her reflections are consistent with the findings of
. For example, Clarkson claims that translation is not always beneficial
or reliable as it might not reflect the exact meaning. TJ also made interesting observations
about secondary translations (from Hindi into other local languages) going on during the
sessions. This use of secondary translations could be an issue for further investigation.
TJ felt that the New Zealand teachers missed out on hearing the Indian teachers?
opinions sometimes because of the language barrier as reflected in the following quote:
?The spontaneous banter you get (robust discussion) when there is a common
fluent language was missing. This was evident in her small groups where when
the translator translated ideas, there suddenly was a strong discussion with
everyone contributing, agreeing and disagreeing. So as facilitators we couldn?t
make the most of that stuff. Translators at the front translated robustly, but in
the small groups we missed out on discussion and banter.?
As for the New Zealand teachers? opinions of the use of English as the medium of
instruction for the teacher support programme being delivered, Sally suggested that the
teachers may be improving their own English language skills (needed for teaching in
English-medium schools) by having the programme delivered in English, even if at times this
may have led to some misunderstandings. TJ believed the Indian teachers learned a lot of
English because the New Zealand teachers were using English all the time. Sometimes it may
have hindered the understanding of some Indian teachers, but key teachers who were very
fluent in English acted as teachers and interpreters after the lectures and tutorials.
These findings confirm that dealing with multiple languages in the classroom is
complex and potentially challenging for teachers
(Mady & Garbarti, 2014; Planas and
. Not only is it a challenge to find resources in the student's home language,
but there is also the challenge of ascertaining students' understanding when there is a
language barrier. When a teacher does not speak the language of every student in his or her
class, he or she may not be able to understand student responses. Without outside assistance,
this limits the ability for a student to answer questions, or engage in discussions.
Strategies used by New Zealand Teachers
The New Zealand teachers? responses to the interview question ?How is the language
barrier negotiated?? indicated that they used a range of strategies to bridge language barriers
for the Indian teachers, including using home language, code switching, writing on the board,
collaborative learning, and using paralinguistic strategies. These will now be presented and
discussed in light of existing literature.
Using Home Language(s)
One of the key strategies to support English language learners is accepting and
encouraging the use of students? home languages in the classroom. Indeed, as is mentioned in
the ?language as resource? approach in the introduction to this article, home languages should
be recognised as resources, not as hindrances
(Goldenberg, 2008; Mady & Garbarti, 2014;
Moschkovich, 2005; Planas & Setati-Phakeng, 2014)
Other studies offer further evidence to suggest that, in an effort to provide cognitively
appropriate learning opportunities, teachers can, and should, conscientiously choose to
include students? first language(s) in the classroom.
Consider, for example, the three Japanese English language learners in
) study who chose to rehearse their presentation in Japanese before making the final
presentation to the class in English. It was found that ?the amount
of Japanese used decreased as group work progressed, which indicates that the L1
[first language] might have served as an important scaffold for their task accomplishment in
English? (p. 356).
All of the New Zealand teacher participants in the present study encouraged the
Indian teachers to use Hindi (or other home languages) when discussing and explaining
concepts to each other, and some New Zealand teachers learned some Hindi. Freddie (an
Early Childhood educator) noted that ?it was difficult in the workshop sometimes. I
encouraged teachers to have discussions in Hindi about what they were discussing. Then they
translated that into English.? Lily and Sigma worked with some of the Indian teachers who
were going to lead a workshop with their colleagues. They discussed whether Hindi or
English should be used, and the Indian teachers decided on Hindi in their presentation to the
It seems that the New Zealand teachers who participated in this study were aware of
the importance and usefulness of the Indian teachers using their home language(s) for
discussions with each other. This finding resonates with the views expressed by other
(Bay-Williams & Herrera , 2007; Clarkson, 2007; Mady & Garbarti, 2014; Planas &
. Mady and Garbarti (2014) and
Planas and Setati-Phakeng (2014)
argued that students' mother tongue deserves a place in multilingual classrooms. The New
Zealand teachers in the present study also believe that the use of home language is an
effective strategy for learning in a multilingual setting where the medium of instruction
differs from the home language.
As stated in the introduction, code-switching involves the movement between
languages in a single speech act. It can involve switching a word, a phrase, a sentence or
several sentences. Language learners code-switch for various reasons, including to seek
clarification and to provide an explanation
(Moschkovich, 2005; Schleppegrell, 2011)
Codeswitching has been shown to promote both student-student and student-teacher interactions in
classrooms involving ELL students
(Kasmer, 2013; Setati et al., 2002)
. Code-switching can
be used strategically and advantageously by teachers as a way of utilising a student's home
(Kasmer, 2013;; Kumar and Narenda , 2012; Macaro, 2005)
Bose and Choudhury (2010)
state that in addition to a switch between two languages,
for example English and Hindi, the teacher also switches from a formal version of Hindi to a
very colloquial form of the same language. This strategy can set up the environment of
shared learning and ownership in the classroom. In this case, the code switch takes place as a
language-swap from English to Hindi, as well as from the formal form to an informal form
within one language.
Code-switching was also a strategy used, observed and promoted by the New Zealand
participants of the present study. Bob, for example, who was on his fourth trip to India,
stated, ?I try different phrases and words. ?A bit of Hindi can help.? Sigma who was an
English/Hindi bilingual herself, used a lot of code switching in her delivery of the teacher
support programme. Many of the New Zealand teachers also observed this kind of code
switching in the Indian classrooms when they did their observations. The use of Hindi and
English seemed to depend on the year level and English proficiency of the teachers. The
teachers were using English/Hindi or both. Freddie felt in the younger classes there was more
Hindi, and in the older classes more English was being used; however, if a more thorough
explanation of something was needed the teacher would sometimes use Hindi. Some of the
Indian teachers had writing in English on board, but explanations were given in Hindi in a
couple of classes. Sally observed mostly Y1 and Y2 (age 5 years and 6 years) in her
classroom observations and also heard a mix of English and Hindi was used. She said that
mostly instructions were in Hindi, and then repeated in English. Songs were in English. Like
Freddie, she also observed that more Hindi was used in the junior parts of the school and
more English was used in senior classes.
Supporting English language learners in their writing is also important multilingual
settings. With all students, but especially with language learners it is important to have daily
objectives of writing, reading and speaking about academic content
Hoffert, 2009; Winsor, 2007)
. One strategy to enable this is the use of graphic organisers.
These can be especially beneficial when the graphic organisers are allowed to be filled in in
both the medium of instruction and the students? home language
(Ngyuen & Cortes, 2013)
Using graphic organisers can help enable language learners to see the relationships between
key concepts and vocabulary
(Brown, Cady and Taylor, 2009)
. Teachers could also write
essential ideas, concepts, representations and words on the board without erasing so that
students can refer to them throughout the lesson. Winsor (2007) explains that student
journals offer just one way of listening to student communicate their thinking and often be
used to capture ideas recently addressed in class. For example, discussions can conclude such
journal writing items as the following: ?One thing I leant today?. One thing I still don?t
understand??? When a language learner is able to explore and express their ideas in a
journal, it gives learners who otherwise might be too shy or unsure to express themselves
orally an opportunity to for expression, where the focus is on the reasoning, not on their
While the New Zealand teachers did not report the use of graphic organisers, or
student journals, TJ, Sally and Lily reported that for their afternoon sessions, they had a lot
written on the whiteboard ready for the class so the Indian teachers could follow
them. Writing down the key terms helped Indian teachers see them and connect them to the
spoken word. TJ checked before proceeding that the students could read and understand what
was on the board before she started talking. As well as speaking more slowly, Lily also wrote
things on a little white board she used during her small group sessions. She noted the
difficulties of different accents in English as being one for the reasons for this: ?Because I
know teachers might be good readers but might not follow my accent.? This use of writing on
the board to aid the language learning and comprehension of the Indian teachers concurs with
the findings of Sharma, Doyle, Shandil, and Talakia'atu (2011) who found that writing
words/vocab on the board re-enforced learned for Pasifika students.
Collaborative learning is a powerful tool for all students, but especially language
(Bay-Williams and Herrera, 2007; Goldenberg 2008; Schleppegrell, 2011)
group work allows them to synthesise the learned material. When language learners are able
to work alongside a partner, they are given the opportunity for interaction and support,
enhancing their learning
(Brown, Cady & Taylor, 2009)
. Collaboration affords language
learners the chance to ask questions and make mistakes in a safe setting, where they can
receive direct and immediate feedback
. Furthermore, when students are
engaged in authentic conversation and interaction, it best fosters their language development.
This is especially true when language learners are partnered with a peer who has a higher
degree of language proficiency in the language which is the medium of instruction. Group
work also gives the teacher time to assess students? understanding informally and provide
individual instructions as needed
Collaborative learning and a strategy used in many New Zealand classrooms called
was used by the New Zealand teachers in the whole group
and small group sessions. Frequently, throughout every session of the day, the Indian
teachers were asked to form groups to discuss the ideas and questions they might have
relating to the topic of the day, and interpreting them in light of their particular educational
context. This strategy allowing the Indian teachers to collaborate in their learning and ties in
with the work of
who explains that when language learners are able to work
alongside a partner, they are given the opportunity for interaction and support, enhancing
(Brown, Cady & Taylor, 2009)
. It is often counterproductive to ask language
learners to give answers to the entire class. Students may not feel confident with their
language skills, and public exposure may make them more uncomfortable and reserved. By
contrast, language learners are often eager to share their ideas in their new language with
their peers. The think/pair/share strategy gives all students the opportunity to practice their
new language skills by explaining their ideas.
One further theme which emerged from the interviews with the New Zealand teacher
participants suggest strategies not so frequently found in the literature concerning working
with language learning students: Paralinguistic strategies.
Using Paralinguistic1 Strategies
What may seem normal speaking pace to a native speaker of any language may seem
too fast for comprehension to a language learner. The addition of complex terms and
concepts can make learning even more difficult
. Lily, Marian and Sally
1 Paralinguistic denotes nonllexical aspects of speech
mentioned slowing down their speech in their workshops. In their afternoon group sessions
Sally and Marian both noticed the need to slow their speaking pace. Marian said, ?We had to
slow everything right down. Sometimes I would forget that I was being translated and speak
too much before letting the translator translate. I asked my translators to stop me if I said too
much, but they did not necessarily do this.? At times, the New Zealand teachers reported
modifying the linguistic complexity of their speech by using shorter sentences. Lily would
stop regularly and noted that ?I was aware of molding my sentences so the translator could
follow. I found this an interesting experience and quite liked it.?
Many of the New Zealand teachers were aware of making use of paralinguistic
strategies to accompany their speech in order to support the Indian teachers? comprehension.
Teaching language learners using only verbal communication can limit their learning
. Providing non-linguistic cues such as visual diagrams, drawings and
graphic organisers, can make more complex language accessible for all
(Lee & Lee, 2011)
and the New Zealand teachers seemed to be intuitively aware of this. Marian used her hands
and moved around a lot, and she thought these were helpful strategies in the multilingual
setting. Freddie used demonstrations, pictures, gestures and actions to aid understanding.
In sum, the seven New Zealand teacher participants? reflections evidenced an
awareness of the affordances, complexities, and limitations of translation in a multilingual
educational setting where the medium of instruction is not the home language of class
members. The teachers reported using and observing a range of strategies used to maximize
communication in the multilingual setting, including encouraging the use by their Indian
colleagues of home languages and translation, the use of codeswitching. For themselves they
reported adapting their speech, making it slower and chunking phrases as well as adding
paralinguistic cues such as hand gestures, miming and diagrams; they wrote things on the
board and provided many opportunities for collaborative learning. While research indicates
that many New Zealand teachers face challenges in knowing how to support language
learners, partly because they have minimal training in teaching language learners in
(Martin, 2004; Sharma et al., 2011)
, the group of New Zealand teachers
in this particular setting demonstrated insight and strategies consistent with effective practice.
Apart from the number of times they had worked in overseas multilingual settings (see Table
1), the extent of prior knowledge and/or experience of working in multilingual settings in
New Zealand amongst these participants is not known. However, it is clear that the real-life
experience of working in a multilingual setting with Indian colleagues some of whom were
not fluent in the language of instruction (English), provided many learning experiences which
raised awareness, and provided opportunities to try out strategies.
While research shows that many teachers believe using home language is detrimental
(Franken & McComish, 2003 Mady & Garbarti, 2014; Planas & Setati-Phakeng,
2014; Winsor, 2007)
, this was not the case for the seven participants who could plainly see
the educational value of learners being able to using their home language(s) in the classroom.
And while several, albeit small, studies in New Zealand have indicated that despite the
existence of Ministry of Education documents specific to English language learners, teachers
have limited awareness of issues relating to bilingualism and strategies to support language
learners in the classroom, the seven teachers in the present study demonstrated a range of
specific strategies consistent with research-based effective language learning practice.
Whether this was by virtue of prior learning in teacher education or professional
development, or by experience in the setting with first-time teachers (Marian and TJ) learning
from multiple-visit teachers (Bob, Sigma, Lily, Freddie, and Sally), cannot be determined
here, but this is an area ripe for future investigation.
The three perspectives on language policies and classroom practices described earlier
Planas and Setati-Phakeng (2014)
were language-as-problem, language-as-right and
language-as-resource. The reported strategies and observations of the seven New Zealand
teachers and educators in this article appear to fall into the ?Language-as-a-resource?
approach. By adopting strategies such as collaborative learning, writing, adjusting speech and
code-switching, New Zealand teachers were encouraging their Indian colleagues to use
whatever linguistic resources they had to understand and share ideas about classroom practice
to support the education of the underprivileged children in their schools.
Limitations of the Research
There are several limitations in the study. Firstly, the number of participants in the
study is small, with limits on generalizability of results. It was not possible to explore if
language challenges were because of age, gender or prior experience. A study with more
participants might well achieve these types of results which would then have implications for
teacher support programme and constructing support to change teacher practices.
A second limitation relates to the validity of the interview data based on participant
recall two weeks after returning from India. Additionally, data gathered depended on the
skills of the two interviewers. On reflection, we believe that in places, further probing would
have been useful, especially around knowing what training or professional development the
New Zealand teachers had received concerning supporting language learners prior to
participating in the teacher support programme. Further studies are therefore necessary to
explore these ideas further.
Lastly, while this study intentionally only sought ideas from the New Zealand
teachers, it would be valuable to know what the Indian teachers thought about strategies used
by New Zealand teachers. Future interviews with Indian teachers will help explore their
thinking regarding the language use of New Zealand teachers in the teacher support
Implications for Practice and Research
Our study shows that dealing with multiple languages in multilingual classrooms is
potentially challenging for teachers. For example, there is the challenge of ascertaining a
learner's understanding when there is a language barrier. Teachers need to be familiar with a
range of strategies such as collaborative learning and use of home language to bridge the
language barriers otherwise this situation limits the ability for a learner to answer in anything
but the medium of instruction.
A number of researchers have advocated for the use of students? home languages
as resources for learning and teaching content areas
(Adler,1998; Kumar & Narenda , 2012;
Macaro, 2005; Mady & Garbati, 2014)
. Teachers could use students? home language(s), as a
tool for thinking and communication. This will provide support needed by these students as
they continue to simultaneously learn and develop proficiency in the language of instruction
and their home language.
The findings of this study also have relevance in teacher education. Understanding the
challenges and some of the opportunities teachers face in the classroom when teaching learners
with a range of languages and language proficiencies, will enable teacher educators to better
equip student teachers and teachers to work in multi-lingual and multi-cultural classrooms.
Due to the internationalization and globalization of education there has been a growing
interest in language and cultural issues in multilingual settings. Hence, this research will be of
interest to the international community because it involves looking at issues that are relevant
for schools in nations worldwide.
It is anticipated that the study may provide a base for further research on the topic,
especially pertaining to teacher beliefs and attitudes toward teaching language learners from a
range of different linguistic and cultural contexts.
Like proponents of the language-as-resource perspective, we argue that equity and
academic excellence will not be attained until learners? home language is used as a resource in
multilingual classrooms. This view has implications for New Zealand Education policy
(Ministry of Education, 2008)
which states that all learners need to feel secure in their
identities, languages and cultures in order to contribute fully to Aotearoa New Zealand?s social,
and cultural wellbeing.
The main focus of this article has been to explore the perceptions and language
strategies used by New Zealand teachers in a multilingual teacher support programme
delivered in India. Findings from the semi-structured interviews show that the New Zealand
teachers developed a nuanced awareness of issues relating to translation and comprehension
in multilingual settings. They also used a range of strategies such as students? home
language(s), using visual strategies, collaborative learning, code switching, and writing
strategies which are supported by the research literature to enhance comprehension and
cognition amongst the multilingual Indian teachers participating in the teacher support
programme, and observed the Indian teachers using some of these strategies in their own
classrooms. The New Zealand teachers in this study developed a range of strategies to deal
with the multilingual context in which they were delivering the teacher support programme,
and they also observed Indian teachers using a range of linguistic and paralinguistic strategies
to support cognition and language learning simultaneously.
The authors wish to acknowledge the contributions made by the participants
interviewed for this article. We are extremely grateful for their willingness to be involved in
the interviews and the openness of their responses. They taught us so much. We also thank
anonymous reviewers for constructive comments which helped us with the development of this
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