In a primary school, I’m conducting a short focus group with 7-, 8- and 9-year-old children, some Italian and some from diverse cultural backgrounds. During the observation I had conducted in the morning, I had noticed that children hadn’t used any languages other than Italian, even during break time. During a conversation I dare to ask if they speak a different language at home and if they sometimes speak their home language at school:

Ch1 No, we can’t, it is not allowed

Ch2 Sometimes I do it, with my friends, when the teacher can’t hear me

R: So sometimes even with your friends at school

Ch2: Because they can understand me.

Ch3: I don’t speak my mother tongue, I don’t care about it

R: you don’t care about your home language?

Ch3 No (shrugging his shoulders), I don’t think it is worth it, it doesn’t mean anything, I don’t like it …

R: You don’t think it is important and you don’t like it

Ch3: and we are in Italy, we have to speak Italian!

R: Do you think that teachers want you to speak only in Italian?

Ch1: Yeees. Teacher X told us that at school we speak Italian to learn better Italian.

Focus on the case:

  • What do you think about this episode?
  • What do you think the children could feel about the prohibition of speaking their home languages at school?

Focus on your experience:

  • Did you ever listen to children talking about their home languages? Or in their home languages? What do you think about it?
  • Do you ever try to talk with the children of your classroom about their home languages?
    • …or about what language they speak at home, with their family, relatives and community?
    • …or about what they feel about their home language?
  • Do you give any rule in the use of languages at school? And at home?
  • Is there any visibility (books, signs, notices) in your classroom or school of the different languages spoken by children and families?
  • Do you implement any strategies/practices to work on valuing multilingualism, language repertories and competences?

Themes: Making all languages visible and a resource for the class and Promoting multilingualism in the classroom

Resource type: Observe and reflect

Tags: language awareness and multilingualism

Age range: 4+

Available in: Czech, English, and Italian