INTRODUCING SCHOOL 2
School 2 is a coeducational state school established in 1953, located in northern Sydney region ranging from year 7 to year 12. There is a population of approximately 1480 students, with 44% of these students from language backgrounds other than English. The school supports the International Students Program with over 100 international students. On the school website, there is substantial information on international students, with ‘International student guide’ document attached. For those students who need assistance in any matter, they provide a bilingual teacher support for Mandarin, Korean, Persian, Japanese, and French. The school also provides students with an opportunity to study two languages, French or/and Japanese from year 7 to year 12. In year 7 and 8, all students learn one language for 100 mandatory hours and during these courses, students are provided with opportunities to learn the language, people and culture. From year 9, students have a choice to continue the course as an elective subject, further developing their knowledge, skill and awareness of the languages. They offer regular exchange visits to and from Japan and France every year in order to broaden students´ language ability and experience as well as intercultural awareness.
To further explore the linguistic diversity of the school, we conducted an interview with a student from School 2 with a Korean background. He came to Australia 6 years ago when his English was very poor and attended Intensive English Centre (IEC) for 6 months before attending School 2. Despite coming from a Korean language background, he stated that he did not have many chances to use his Korean at school which in turn helped him improve his English very quickly. Although there are many students from diverse language backgrounds due to the International Student Program supported by the school, he does not feel that the school is linguistically diverse. According to him, there are no restrictions or rules in terms of their language use and students can freely speak other languages at any time; however, the language that he hears 80% of the time is English, and he only hears other languages being spoken in ESL class which is mostly composed of international students. He thinks that students choose to speak English as a mutual language in order to communicate with teachers and with other students who can’t speak the same languages and that is what he also chooses to do.
The school provides two language subjects, French and Japanese and even though there is an exchange program for these two subjects, it was discovered that only a small number of students actually participated in the program. It was also interesting to find out that the interviewee was not aware of the presence of interpreter of his school. Although it was stated on the school website, he did not know there was an interpreter, which shows that the school does not explicitly promote their presence to the majority of students. In terms of Indigenous language, there are a few students with Indigenous language background but he has never heard them speak the language before, and there is hardly any presence of the Indigenous language at school.
The following is the full transcript of the interview questions and the responses by the interviewee.
1. Are you freely allowed to speak languages other than English in the classroom?
- Yes, we are allowed to speak languages other than English freely in the classroom. When we are individually working in classrooms, some people speak in other languages, and we are not strictly restricted to speak English only in classrooms.
2. What is your cultural (ethnicity) background?
3. Do you speak language other than English (at school or at home)?
4. Do teachers communicate with students using language other than English?
- No, they speak only in English, except for language classes.
5. Does your school offer any language classes other than English?
- Japanese and French
6. Do you feel that your school is linguistically diverse? (or Do you hear a lot of different languages in the playground?) Why do you feel this way? (give example/s)
- I hear different languages, I’ve heard Chinese, Korean, and Indian. I don’t think it is very diverse because it’s mostly English that I hear during recess and lunch. Even though there are many international students from different background, I think they mostly choose to speak English rather their own languages.
7. Which language other than English do you hear the most at school?
8. Where do you hear other languages being spoken the most in school? (in classrooms or in playground, etc?)
- A bit in the playground, but mostly I can hear in ESL class where there are many international students.
9. Does your school openly display the presence of a translator or interpreter?
- No I have never heard about the presence of a translator or interpreter at my school.
10. Do you think there is evidence of a monolingual English ideology despite the fact that many kids come from families whose first language is not English?
- No I don´t think there is. Many people speak languages other than English and there are also teachers who are from different cultural background.
11. What are your thoughts towards the students speaking different languages at school? Why do you feel that way?
- I think students can speak other languages at school and there shouldn’t be rules and policies for ‘English Only’, but to be able to communicate with teachers and students who cannot speak the same language, it might be better to speak English in class to learn. But during recess and lunch when communication with teachers isn´t necessary they should be allowed to speak other languages freely.
12. Do you have negative feelings towards hearing people speaking different languages other than English? (hearing different languages that you don’t understand)?
- No I don´t have any negative thoughts towards people speaking different languages. I think they should feel free to speak their languages.
13. Do you consider yourself to be Australian or a member of your host country? If you consider you belong to both ethnic identities, which side do you lean towards more?
- I think I consider myself to be more Korean than Australian, because although I speak English well now I’ve only been living in Australia for 6 years. Also, even though I speak English most of the time outside, when I am at home, Korean is the language that I speak with my family and I am largely influenced by the Korean culture so I would definitely consider myself as more Korean.
14. Do the school atmosphere, students and staff provide a sense of belonging despite cultural and language differences? If yes, why?
- Yes, teachers and the school provide a sense of belonging through International Day, promoting diverse cultures and language. But for some students, I think they tend to group themselves by the cultural and language backgrounds.
15. Does your school have signs/texts that are written in different languages? Provide examples.
- Not at all, I’ve never seen a sign written in other languages.
16. Does your school offer exchange program from other countries?
- Yes, there is an exchange program from/to Japan and France. Students from sister schools in France and Japan come annually and stay for a period of time.
17. (If yes) While teaching English to your exchange students, did they reciprocate (do the same) by teaching parts of their language to you ? (ultimately promoting linguistic diversity). Please explain your answer. (Optional: Was there a consistent flow of language exchange between the students?)
- I have never talked to an exchange student before through hosting, but I often saw exchange students and host students talk to each other in their own language, so I guess that would be a language exchange between the students.
18. Is there any presence of Indigenous language at school? Like what?
- I heard that there is a couple of indigenous students at school but never speak the language. Besides that, in music class, they teach indigenous music which has indigenous language in it, and in English and History class, we also watched Indigenous Australian films