We decided to create a student survey that explored linguistic diversity in all 4 different schools that were chosen to focus on the overall patterns and attitudes towards linguistic from students and schools of our current generation.
In our survey, approximately 60 students coming from a variety of different ethnicities participated. We tried to survey students from different language backgrounds to reduce singular language bias as well as demonstrate the multiculturalism in Sydney. Our group wanted to incorporate the opinions and thoughts of a range of students that may have been immersed in linguistically diverse environments.
As assumed, the diverse variety of ethnicities resulted in many participants being multilingual with the majority of participants being able to speak a language other than English. Languages spoken included Korean, Japanese, Chinese, French, Spanish, Hindi as well as Afrikaans and Gujarati.
Q1. When do you speak your other language?
Although Group 6’s main goal was to view the functions of languages in schools, we allowed students to choose other domains to see where the majority of students were using their second language. The most popular function of language actually took place at home rather than at school with 30% of respondents picking this domain compared to the combined result of students using language at school during recess and class with 24% of respondents picking this domain as well. From these results, it can be seen that school is regarded as one of the most desirable and popular environments for students to communicate with others in a different language.
Q2. What determines your decision in choosing this language to speak in?
The graph shows the responses of the reason why students choose to speak in a language of their choice. The two most popular responses were ‘To communicate with friends’ and ‘I feel a sense of belonging to a particular language group’. These responses show their language choice is used as a social function. That is, the students’ decisions to speak in a particular language is highly influenced by the desire to socialise and communicate with people from the speech community they belong to.
Q3. What language other than English is heard the most at school?
There were various responses across the schools on the students’ thoughts of the most heard languages other than English at school. The most heard language was Chinese followed by Korean. It is worth noting that the results shown may not correspond to the actual figures of most spoken languages as we need to consider that: (a) some speakers of a particular language may choose to not speak their language, and (b) the results can be biased as it is based on the students’ thoughts and intuitions, which may be influenced by their own knowledge and lack of knowledge of different languages. It is also difficult to track which language is spoken the most in quantitative numbers.
Q4. Do you feel comfortable speaking English in class with the teacher and other students?
All of the students surveyed responded that they feel comfortable speaking English in class with their teachers and other students. This result may suggest that despite the cultural and linguistic diversities, teachers and students in the school create a welcoming environment, allowing students to feel comfortable when speaking English.
Q5. Is your social circle/s (people you spend the most time talking with) in school made up of …
The social circles that student belong to in school are made up of variety speakers of different languages. It was interesting to find that many of these groups of speakers were not monolingual. The result showed that over 40% of students’ social groups were made up of mix of English speakers and speakers of other languages. As many of these social groups are made up of bilingual or multilingual speakers, it suggests that the users are respectful of the languages choices made by others. Although we were not able to find out how they negotiate language choices in these mixed language groups, we can see that the members of these speech groups are open to negotiating language choices within their social circle. The linguistic diversity is accepted and valued among these social groups, and the high proportion of these groups suggests that these schools create an atmosphere that promotes multiculturalism and linguistic diversity.
Q6. What language do you choose to speak at school when not in class?
According to the data, 45% of the students choose to speak English with their friends when they are not in class. Although there is a large number of students from language background other than English, since their social circles are mostly composed of a mix of English speakers and speakers of LOTE, they are most likely to converse in the mutual language, which is English. However, there is still a large proportion of students who choose to speak other languages within their social circles.
Q7. What is the most popular language picked by the students?
The most popular languages students choose to study across the 4 schools are French, Japanese, Korean, German, Spanish, Italian and Chinese respectively. This result shows that French and Japanese are the most dominant languages and the most desirable languages to learn as a second language. In most cases, the popular language classes are highly supported by the school, with abundant resources and staff. These languages have learners who want to learn the language, suggesting these languages have desirable functions for students, whether it is job opportunities, interest in culture or to communicate. On the other hand, the unpopular languages to be chosen by students may be considered difficult to study or may have lack of support from the department of education or the school, which may impede the linguistic diversity.
Q8. Are there messages, signs, or any form of written text that is in a different language at your school? Provide an example.
68% of students stated that their school had the presence of messages, signs or texts written in a different language. This represents the existence of schools attempting to incorporate more linguistic diversity to assist students in adapting to Australian schools as well as promote the use of different languages. Even though 32% represented the minority from this survey question, it is surprisingly large considering the large percentages of student population coming from language backgrounds other than English. Due to the lack of linguistically diverse signs and messages in these schools, this may impede the use of different languages and minimise linguistically diverse experiences for some participants.
Q9. Do you have an interest to learn new languages? If yes, why do you want to?
Most (except for one) of the students who participated in the survey had an interest to learn new languages. We wanted to find out the reasons why students were interested in learning a new language. The most popular response was ‘because of interest’. This suggests the importance of making languages interesting and appealing to the possible learners. To promote linguistic diversity, people need to have an idea and interest about not only the language, but the culture as well in order to make these languages desirable to learn.
Q10. Does your school promote the use (speaking or writing) of different languages?
81% of students agree that school is advocating the use of diverse languages other than English. This suggests that most schools are developing a multilingual ideology highlighting the importance of using different languages.
Q11. Is there any school events/programs that promote linguistic diversity (different use of languages)?
While 16% of the participants stated that there aren’t any school events/programs that promote linguistic diversity, 84% of the students agreed to the fact that their school supports different use of languages through various events and programs. Examples of these events/programs include Multicultural day, also called Harmony day or International day at some schools, exchange programs, and International societies or clubs. This result shows that most schools provide opportunities for students to access diverse cultures and languages.