Group 6

Interesting discoveries from our research - 20 April 2017

In this blog post, all group members will just be sharing some of our thoughts and discoveries of our overall research and findings. What did we find interesting? What did we find strange? What did we uncover? All will be revealed in this engaging and insightful post!

Interesting facts from School 1

It was interesting to find that programs and classes that are designed to promote multilingualism can at times enhance monolingual attitudes in a school. From interviewing the students, we saw that specialised classes (such as ESL classes) designed to cater for diverse students with various languages can at times create further division between students from different language groups. ESL classes may contribute to creating a divide between these students and non-ESL students due to lack of communication. This can lead to lack of insight into other cultures and languages and without this understanding, it is difficult to expect students to have an open mind towards multiculturalism and multilingualism.

School children are easy to get influenced by social pressures and it is important to start closing the gap between native English speakers and ESL speakers. Distinguishing and separating these ESL speakers as ‘ESL students’ and placing them in a classroom made up of mostly ESL students may help keep these students in their comfort zone, but may have even bigger risk of lack of social interaction with ‘Australian’ students, culture and the language.

Findings about School 2

When I visited the school for observation, first I looked for any signs or texts written in other languages, but surprisingly I could mostly find texts written in English and the only text written in another language was a huge poster on the language classroom door. Just by physically observing the school I could not find much evidence of multilingualism, but after the research, it became much clearer that School 2 was not as linguistically diverse as I expected.

Although there are many students who come from language backgrounds other than English, the dominant language used was English both inside and outside the classroom. There wasn’t any school rule or policy forcing them to speak ‘only English’ but English was a dominant language used by many students. Yes, they accept international students each year, but it turned out that these international students are mostly from the same language background, not necessarily diverse, and is only a small number compared to the number of local students. On top of this, these students tend to group themselves as ‘international students’, creating a barrier from the local students. It also seemed to me that the school did not actively promote the importance of learning different languages compared to other schools. School 2 only provides two language subjects, Japanese and French. Students study one of these languages in year 7 and 8 but from year 9, it becomes an elective subject and many students choose not to study it. Even the student I interviewed mentioned that sometimes a language class does not open for seniors due to low demand for the subject.

Overall, it was interesting to see how the school attempted to promote the linguistic diversity. However, I find that they should still provide students with more opportunities and choices to develop their linguistic knowledge and proficiency, as well as continuing to accept international students, but from a wider range of language background and creating a comfortable atmosphere for students to freely communicate across their language barriers.

What I discovered about School 3

I was surprised as to how linguistically diverse School 3 was which basically equates to not at all. I originally had this view in my head that selective schools were predominantly monolingual due to the academic demands of the school but after researching School 3, the linguistic diversity was even lower than what I had initially expected. The school barely had any signs that were not in English and even the signs on the language department were printed from a mere A4 paper and stuck on the door. Very enthusiastic, I know.

I was hoping to find some student artwork that may have represented evidence of different languages present in the school but even then, there was hardly anything. School 3 had started to remind me of plain vanilla ice cream in terms of the linguistic diversity that was present. There really was not much impact at all.

Even the student I interviewed who said majority of the students come from language backgrounds other than English commented on how dominant English was in and around the school and also how language was not offered in the school for the senior years forcing students to study it online. It also appeared to not have been picked by many students due to being a lower scaling subject and interest itself is not enough for students to choose that subject. I think over the many years of Australian education, language has been embedded into our students as being a leisure activity that represents little important for our futures compared to the main academics such as English, Mathematics and Science. This monolingual ideology has developed for so long but it isn’t too late to change and shape our views of language. School 1, 2 and 4 of our study have all demonstrated that in some areas of Sydney, there are schools that are willing to promote linguistic diversity and portray the importance that it holds for our future and I think it is time for schools such as School 3 to start paying more attention to the importance of multilingualism for our students.

Exploring and uncovering School 4

Comparing School 4 with the rest of School 1, 2 and 3, it was somehow easier for me to discover the visual presence of linguistic diversity and its value engaged from the school and the students. When I visited School 4 for an observation and to take some photos, I was amazed by how students’ artworks up on the wall, and other signs, and posters on the notice boards were full of concepts with multicultural and multilingual aspects. The language department and some classrooms that are specifically designated for language subjects had a lot of visual resources at the back of the room that represent their cultural and linguistic aspects and values. It seemed School 4 is actively promoting the linguistic diversity towards students and teachers, and creating comfortable atmosphere for those international students from non-English speaking background countries.

Many students often avoid language subjects for their HSC because they think these subjects will affect their overall HSC ATAR scaling, and some students assume language subjects are too difficult to learn. However School 4 has overall the largest number of linguistic programs compare to School 1, 2, and 3 as there are 10 language subjects designated for students, including year 11 and 12 students who chose language subjects as their HSC subjects. I think this is as a matter of fact schools’ responsibility to promote linguistic diversity through actively engaging students’ interests in different languages and motivation in learning other languages. I realise that this will also affect positive attitudes of students and teachers towards embracing linguistic diversity, to develop better multilingual society in the future.

Survey Analysis: Schools and Languages - 15 April 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

SURVEY ANALYSIS

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Getting to know School 4 and its environment - 10 April 2017

INTRODUCING SCHOOL 4

School 4, which is located in a suburb in the Inner West of Sydney was designated as a language high school in 1990. 93% of its students are from language backgrounds other than English. The designation of the school symbolically promotes a secure multilingual environment for a diverse student population where tolerance and understanding of the cultural groups the school serves are priorities.

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School 4 provides multiple language subjects such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, and French, which are included in a mandatory component of the year 7 to 10 curriculum to promote students’ strong cultural and linguistic achievement. Some classrooms are decorated with various visual materials that represent the multiculturalism and multilingualism, which was impressive to me.

Furthermore, the school also provides an English subject designated for international students learning English as a Second Language (ESL), and a Fundamental English subject is included in a preliminary course for those students who are willing to be supported in academic English language at school. In addition, the school presents the annual celebration called ‘Harmony Day’ to advocate school’s multiculturalism, which embrace diverse linguistic and ethnic backgrounds of students.

When I was researching this school, the school seems to provide students with various opportunities to express their cultural and multilingual values. For instance, there are lots of students’ artworks on the school wall that show the presence of diverse culture and languages.

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In front of the language faculty office rooms, there are photos and precise information about overseas exchange programs, how international students from sister schools overseas visited School 4 to share languages and cultures with the students from School 4.

I chose School 4 because as it can be seen School 4 actively supports and provides students with a range of opportunities that facilitate students’ cultural and linguistic values, and promote multiculturalism. So we have decided to conduct an interview with one of the students from School 4 to explore more detailed patterns and functions of various languages in this school, and the perceptions and attitudes of students and teachers towards the idea of linguistic diversity and the language domain.

We have interviewed a year 12 student from School 4. Her linguistic background is Japanese and she has been living in Australia for 10 years. While interviewing her, she had a positive attitude towards linguistic diversity as she is opened to hearing languages other than English at school and likes sharing diverse cultures and languages with peers from different language backgrounds. According to the interviewee, School 4 advocates comfortable atmosphere that engages a sense of belonging despite the cultural and linguistic differences within students, through providing range of subjects for majority languages, overseas exchange programs, and multicultural events called ‘Harmony Day’, and supporting international students through operating ESL class and Fundamental English classes. However, some of her responses show there is a slight presence of monolingual English ideology within the school, where there are some restrictions in students speaking languages other than English in the classroom, and most teachers communicate with students using only English. In terms of Indigenous language, there is no presence of Indigenous students; however, there is Indigenous studies incorporated in the school curriculum across the subject areas.

 

INTERVIEW

  1.      Are you freely allowed to speak languages other than English in the classroom?
  • Some teachers don’t care if we speak languages other than English in the classroom, but most teachers strictly ask us to speak only English in the classroom because it could distract the class.

 

  1.      What is your cultural (ethnicity) background?
  • My cultural background is Japanese.

 

  1.      Do you speak language other than English (at school or at home)?
  • I speak Japanese at home with my family, and with some of friends at school as well as outside the home and school.

 

  1.      Do teachers communicate with students using language other than English?
  • My Japanese and Korean teachers communicate with us using the subject languages, but my other subject teachers only communicate with us using English.

 

  1.      Does your school offer any language classes other than English?
  • My school offers language classes such as Korean Background and Heritage Studies, Chinese Continuers and Background Studies, Japanese Beginners, Continuers and Extension Studies, French Beginners and Continuers Studies, and Italian Continuers Studies.

 

  1.      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 a lot of other students speaking their own languages other than English outside the classrooms. So I think my school is very diverse in languages, and because most of my friends have different language backgrounds other than English, although we communicate with each other mainly in English, we also share a lot of different linguistic and cultural knowledge within our social circle.

 

  1.      Which language other than English do you hear the most at school?
  • I think I hear Chinese the most at school if I have to choose one language other than English.

 

  1.      Where do you hear other languages being spoken the most in school? (in classrooms or in playground, etc?)
  • I mostly hear these languages being spoken in the playground than in classrooms.

 

  1.      Does your school openly display the presence of a translator or interpreter?
  • I’m not sure if the school openly displays the presence of a translator or interpreter, but sometimes if people who need an interpreter on the day of parents and teachers interview, and if the languages are taught from our school (like Korean, Japanese, Italian, French, Chinese, etc.), language teachers often help those people in interpreting and translating.

 

  1.  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?
  • I think this assumption that our common language in school is English and the rule that we have to speak English in the classrooms to learn the subject and communicate with each other, makes the ideology of monolingual English at school in Australia.

 

  1.  What are your thoughts towards the students speaking different languages at school? Why do you feel that way?
  • As I’m also from a different linguistic background and I speak in Japanese with my friends at school, I agree with how people want to speak in languages they are confident in and so I’m positive towards the way of students communicating with each other in different languages other than English.

 

  1.  Do you have negative feelings towards hearing people speaking different languages other than English? (hearing different languages that you don’t understand)?
  • I think that depends on the situation I was put on. But I just mostly feel curious when I’m hearing other people speaking different languages other than English, I wonder what they would be talking about but I’m never get upset or any kind of negative feelings towards hearing languages that I don’t understand.

 

  1.  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?
  • Although I’ve been living in Australia for more than half of my life, I consider my ethnic identity as Japanese and I feel more confident in speaking Japanese and I’m more adapted to Japanese culture and traditions, and being with the people from same ethnic background.

 

  1.  Do the school atmosphere, students and staff provide a sense of belonging despite cultural and language differences? If yes, why?
  • Our school annually celebrates cultural events such as ‘Harmony Day’ or ‘International Students Day’ to actively invite diverse cultures to share and communicate among students and teachers. So I think this gives us a sense of unity despite cultural and language differences.

 

  1.  Does your school have signs/texts that are written in different languages? Provide examples.
  • I think I saw the big sign board of different languages saying ‘welcome’ in front of the office gate. Some classrooms have presentation boards that the information is written in different languages because those classrooms are usually for language subjects.

 

  1.  Does your school offer exchange program from other countries?
  • Yes my school offers exchange program from Japan, so every year students from our sister school in Japan visit Australia and our school for about 1 month and students from our school become a host family to provide accommodation and assistance.

 

  1.  (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?)
  • Yes, both exchange students and host students can teach their own language to each other through the communication, but I have never hosted exchange students from other countries so I’m not sure if there is a consistent flow of language exchange between the students.

 

  1.  Is there any presence of Indigenous language at school? Like what?
  • In my ESL class we watch Indigenous Australian movies to study Indigenous people’s perspectives for one of our topics. But there is no presence of Indigenous language around school because it is a minority language in our school.

 

Getting to know School 3 and its environment - 10 April 2017

INTRODUCING SCHOOL 3

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The school that I chose to research is an academically selective high school for boys, located on the Upper North Shore of Sydney. The school only accepts 120 students in Year 7; however, through direct application, some students may be accepted into Years 8 to 11. This high school offers a range of extra-curricular activities for students to choose from including a debating society, chess club, a stage band, a concert band, a stage band, a vocal ensemble, a jazz ensemble as well as a string ensemble. Years 7 and 8 are required to take a language subject in either French or Japanese; however, if students wish to study a language in the senior years, open high school is available which mostly takes place online. In Years 9 and 10, French and Japanese is offered as an elective for students. In 2016, 745 students were enrolled and 87% of these students had a language background other than English.

I chose this school because I wanted to find out if my initial thoughts about this school’s linguistic diversity was accurate or not. As we may know, selective schools have a criteria that must be met before students are allowed to enrol into the school which in this case is academics. With students requiring a certain level of academic skills in English, Mathematics and General Ability, it seems that many international and immigrant students are unable to enter due to lower levels of English proficiency. Under these circumstances, I would presume that the school may have had fewer opportunities to engage in linguistic diversity despite a large percentage of students coming from language backgrounds other than English.

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Student Interview

A short interview was conducted with a Year 12 Australian-born Chinese student from School 3. It is revealed through his interview that he feels most comfortable speaking English at school as it is his dominant language while Chinese is only spoken at home to his parents. He comments on the lack of linguistic diversity in School 3 due to being an academically selective school where language is not viewed as a priority. The scarce amount of international and immigrant students also means that School 3 has no need to provide additional language assistance in school and it is usually these students who bring the most linguistic diversity into Australian schools. Although School 3 has a high 87% of students having a language background other than English, most of the students are Australian-born making English the most comfortable language to speak in. The knowledge of different languages is extremely useful in our current society; however, the students of School 3 mostly view language as a compulsory subject for Years 7 to 8. I believe this is the result of how language is portrayed in School 3 which appears to circulate around more of a monolingual English ideology, this is further supported by the lack of linguistically diverse signs, messages and written text apart from on the doors of the language department. I feel this is common with a lot of selective schools as they base their entry off of the selective school exam which only focuses on English, Mathematics and General Knowledge. The interviewee also comments on how the teachers of School 3 are predominantly Western therefore they are expected to speak only English during class. Further details are explored in the following interview transcript.

 

INTERVIEW

1. Are you freely allowed to speak languages other than English in the classroom?

  • Yes, if you are referring to speaking to each other quietly or during language classes; however, most of the time we are expected to speak English only.

 

2. What is your cultural (ethnicity) background?

  • Chinese

 

3. Do you speak a language other than English (at school or at home)?

  • Yes I do. Usually at home with my parents.

 

4. Do teachers communicate with students using a language other than English?

  • No, teachers just speak English to students as they are predominantly Western.

 

5. Does your school offer any language classes other than English?

  • Yes, we offer French and Japanese but that is only compulsory until Year 8. Students can choose to study French or Japanese in Year 9 or 10 as an elective. For the High School Certificate (HSC), students are free to do a language through open high school but no language subjects are offered in the school.

 

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)

  • No. Although we sometimes speak Chinese when explaining cultural matters such as food or traditions to each other, we usually use English because it is the language we are most comfortable speaking with others outside of family. Our school is also selective so most/all of the students are dominant in English and choose to speak it in the classroom and in the playground. We have had students with English as a second language but many had changed schools due to not being able to cope with the level of English that is required at our school. ESL and Standard English is not offered so all students are required to do either Advanced English or Extensive English.

 

7. Which language other than English do you hear the most at school?

  • Chinese but even then, we do not hear it a lot. It is mostly English.

 

8. Where do you hear other languages being spoken the most in school? (in classrooms or in playground etc?)

  • Playground, only English is spoken in the classroom.

 

9. Does your school openly display the presence of a translator or interpreter?

  • No.

* Author’s side note: Although the school does not openly display the presence of a translator or interpreter to students, School 3’s website includes information on external interpreters and translators that can call up the school and communicate in a 3-way conversation if they are needed by parents. 

 

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?

  • As our school mostly consists of dominant English speakers, there is no need to speak in a different language so I guess there is some evidence of a monolingual English ideology as only English is seen as an academic priority compared to all the other languages. I think a lot of schools hold this view as well, particularly selective. Sometimes to purposely exclude someone, we speak in a different language which is not a good thing but it serves that purpose. Our society embraces multiculturalism which in turn influences us as students to appreciate other cultures and their languages even if it is not spoken in school.

 

11. What are your thoughts towards the students speaking different languages at school? Why do you feel that way?

  • If they are speaking different languages among their group then I am indifferent to this practice. If I am in the group and they are speaking a language I cannot understand then I feel excluded and annoyed.

 

12. Do you have negative feelings towards hearing people speaking different languages other than English? (hearing different languages that you don’t understand)?

  • It is only when i am excluded from not being able to understand the language that I have negative feelings.

 

13. Do you consider yourself to be Australian or a member of your host country (ethnicity)? If you consider you belong to both ethnic identities, which side do you lean towards more?

  • I consider myself to belong to both Chinese and Australian groups but leaning more towards Australian as I have been raised in Australia and English is my dominant language. I only speak Chinese with my parents at home.

 

14. Does your school atmosphere, students and staff provide a sense of belonging despite cultural and language differences? If yes, why/how?

  • Yes, we are very inclusive in all activities and do not discriminate based on cultural and language differences. On Harmony Day, we say ‘harmony’ in different languages during assembly but I think our school could include more cultural and language activities.

 

15. Does your school have signs/texts that are written in different languages? Provide examples.

  • Not really, mostly everything is in English. We have some paper signs on the doors of the language faculty rooms that are in a different language but it is extremely basic.

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16. Does your school offer exchange program from other countries?

  • No.

 

17. (If yes) While teaching English to your exchange students, did they reciprocate (do the same) by teaching parts of their language to you? Please explain your answer.

  • N/A

 

18. Is there any presence of Indigenous language at school? Like what?

  • All we do is acknowledge the Guringai people during assembly but apart from that, there is nothing.

*Author’s side note: Actually on School 3’s website, I found a picture of a sign that openly expresses the school’s acknowledge of the Guringai people and included a few sentences of an Indigenous language with the translation at the bottom. I asked and showed two students that attended School 3 about this sign; however, they had never seen or even heard about this sign before. I think although School 3 makes a good attempt to include Indigenous acknowledgement in the school, it should be more openly expressed and shown to all students for it to be more effective otherwise no one would know of its existence. 

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From my finding, it seems apparent that the importance of language is not really represented in School 3. The functions of language in School 3 is mostly to learn a compulsory subject in order to pass exams, to communicate foreign terms and expressions and as a form of exclusion. The knowledge of different languages is not that useful for School 3 as all teachers and students mostly learn, teach and speak in English. Code-switching is rarely used by students in school as English is what everyone chooses to speak in. Only occasionally will students use another language to describe a word for cultural matters and discussions. Language is only seen as a problem if students purposely use it to exclude others; however, this is not common. The student I interviewed believes School 3 has no negative attitudes towards linguistic diversity but rather as School 3 is mostly focused on academics and has majority of Western teachers, there have been no opportunities to openly incorporate more linguistically diverse activities especially as students are used to speaking only English in class and in the playground. Introducing an exchange program between a foreign school would greatly allow students to become more aware of the benefits of language in areas such as communication. I think being an academically selective school definitely impedes the use of other languages as students are so heavily focused on doing well in compulsory English subjects for the HSC.

Getting to know School 2 and its environment - 10 April 2017

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.

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INTERVIEW

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?

  • Korean

 

 3. Do you speak language other than English (at school or at home)?

  • Korean

 

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?

  • Mandarin

 

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
Getting to know School 1 and its environment - 9 April 2017

INTRODUCING SCHOOL 1

School 1 is a co-ed secondary school, located in the South Western Sydney in the School Education Area of Fairfield. 90% of 1200 students are from language background other than English. The School population is largely made up of non-English speaking background community and low socio-economic community. School receives Resource Allocation Model monies – RAM funding from government to provide additional funding to improve learning outcomes. This funding contributes to developing positive strategies in home, school, community partnerships, school organization and quality teaching and learning.

As the school is culturally and linguistically diverse, the school strongly values acceptance and openness to multiculturalism. This is clearly evident in the official school values: safety, respect, learning and belonging. The school’s annual event ‘International Flag Day’ is the symbol of these values. The school also holds ‘Harmony Day’ to celebrate the cultural diversity.

Not only is the school open to diverse cultural backgrounds of students, the school also tries its best to consider and help students in terms of the challenges, difficulties and prejudices that coincides with the cultural backgrounds. This places an important value in the role of the school as it provides support for students from a migrant background or low socio-economic backgrounds, and also generally assist students who have different cultural backgrounds in their everyday life in Australia.

The school offers education for years 7-12. The school offers second language courses and English as a second language (ESL). The school also has an Intensive English Centre (IEC) to cater for students’ educational needs who have recently arrived in Australia. The IEC has rich resources and great programs and staff to provide the best learning experiences for students who have recently arrived in Australia. Also, the school website has abundant resources and study tips for international students that are simple, easily accessible for students from language backgrounds other than English such as text types, understanding the verbs and writing a bibliography. As for academic achievements, the school achieves consistently above average results from the area and region in public examinations and assessments. The Higher School Certificate results are also frequently above state average.

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English as a second language (ESL)

  • ESL Parallel classes Years 7 to 10
  • Elective ESL in Years 9 and 10
  • Stage 6 (English) ESL for Years 11 and 12
  • ESL Bridging course in Year 11- including preparation and fundamentals in English

Student support services

  • Interpreters
  • Community liaison officers

Languages taught

  • French
  • Italian
  • Japanese

INTERVIEW

The interview responses are made up of the transcript of what the student has said, which was noted down during the interview. As a reminder, school 1 is a highly multicultural school – with 90% of students coming from diverse ethnic backgrounds. From school 1, we have interviewed a student who has a Vietnamese background. She arrived in Australia with her family when she was 13 and has been living in Australia for 4 years. She attended the IEC (Intensive English Centre) for 4 full terms (1 year) and has been attending the High School for 3 years. When looking at the interview responses, it is worth noting that the student has been in Australia for a relatively short time so she prefers and feels more comfortable to speak in Vietnamese.

1. Are you freely allowed to speak languages other than English in the classroom?

  • The students are not allowed to freely speak languages other than English in classrooms. Despite this unspoken rule, students still speak quietly among themselves in languages of their choice.

2. What is your cultural (ethnicity) background?

  • The interviewee’s cultural/ ethnic background is Vietnamese. She arrived in Australia when she was 11 with her family.

3. Do you speak language other than English (at school or at home)?

  • At school, the student speaks English and Vietnamese. She mainly hangs out with friends who speak Vietnamese. In classrooms, she speaks English with her classmates. At home, she speaks Vietnamese only. Her parents do not speak much English. She also has an older brother who can speak English but they converse in Vietnamese.

4. Do teachers communicate with students using language other than English?

  • Most of her teachers communicate in English inside and outside of classrooms. There is a Vietnamese teacher in her maths class, who speaks to her in Vietnamese occasionally outside of classrooms. Also, one of the school administrator speaks Vietnamese and she speaks to the student in Vietnamese when the student goes to the office.

5. Does your school offer any language classes other than English?

  • The school offers Japanese, French and Italian. The student studies Japanese. Japanese is compulsory for year 8. From year 9, students can choose to study a language as an elective. They can choose from Japanese, French or Italian. As for year 11 and 12 students, students can study any of these languages if there are enough number of students to make up a class. Although three languages are offered, Japanese continues to be the most popular language taught in the school.
    According to the student. this popularity could be due to Japanese being compulsory for year 8, which may have allowed students to grow interest in the language and culture. Another reason that Japanese is studied as the most desired language could be academic reasons – there are abundant texts and resources available and there is a connotation that students generally perform well in the HSC. Another possibility of the popularity could be because it is considered to be ‘easier’ than some of the other languages to learn.

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)

  • The student feels the school is linguistically diverse. She hears many different languages being spoken in the playground. According to the student’s thoughts, English is not always the most spoken language in the playground as 90% of the school’s population comes from countries that speak languages other than English. The school is made up of mostly immigrant students or students whose parents have an immigrant background. The close affiliation with the Intensive English Centre (IEC) also contributes to this linguistic diversity as most of these students choose to enroll into high school after the completion of IEC course.

7. Which language other than English do you hear the most at school?

  • Arabic, Vietnamese and Chinese, respectively.

8. Where do you hear other languages being spoken the most in school? (in classrooms or in playground, etc?)

  • The student hears languages other than English spoken the most in the playground. Languages other than English are also spoken in classroom in certain situations. When students’ spoken English is difficult to converse with, teachers speak in languages other than English. This is not seen at a whole class level as teachers speak quietly or take students aside to talk to them.

9. Does your school openly display the presence of a translator or interpreter?

  • The school openly displays and provides translating and interpreting services. The school is very supportive towards the students and parents who are recently starting their life in Australia. In the school office, there is a clearly visible sign, displaying availability of interpreters and translating services. These services are free of charge, and students can get interpreting services via phone. Also, most teachers are bilingual and are open to providing assistance when students need interpreting.

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?

  • Despite the rich multiculturalism present in the school, there is evidence of a monolingual English ideology. In the playground, most social groups that students belong to can negotiate positively about speaking languages other than English. However, in the public space of classroom circumstances, monolingual ideology can be seen as students tend to set expectations on other students to speak in English only. Other times, if students choose to speak a language other than English, they are expected to speak softly among themselves.
  • The interviewee also feels that social exclusion or prejudice due to language background is still present in the school. Students who do not speak English fluently are treated differently to those who can speak English like a native speaker. It was interesting to find that although a lot of students were not born in Australia and have a migrant background, there are still lack of acceptance towards poor English speakers. The interviewee mentioned that these students who do not speak English as well as native speakers are somewhat looked down on and are often referred as ‘fob’ (Fresh off the boat).
  • There is a pressure to speak English like a native speaker with flawless accent, correct choice of words, use of grammar, slang and expressions among the students. This shows that there are unspoken rules to the use of language in the school. Students from immigrant background tend to form a group with students from common immigrant and language background as there is a divide due to language between these students and native speakers of English. The student feels even programs and classes that are meant to be welcoming linguistic diversities can create the divide between ESL students and non-ESL students. One of this example can be ESL English classes and classes across different subject areas specified for ESL students. Despite the school’s attempt to celebrate the diverse cultures and languages, many students still feel monolingual English ideology is very much alive in this school.

11. What are your thoughts towards the students speaking different languages at school? Why do you feel that way?

  • The student is very open to other students speaking different languages at school. She strongly feels students should have the freedom to speak in whatever language they choose to speak in.  She feels that there should be more acceptance and tolerance of people speaking different languages. She speaks Vietnamese with her Vietnamese friends in school and she does not want to be pressured to speak in English just because of social pressures. Also, She understands that although English as second language(ESL) speakers can speak English, sometimes they can have difficulties expressing themselves in English due to cultural differences.

12. Do you have negative feelings towards hearing people speaking different languages other than English? (hearing different languages that you don’t understand)?

  • The interviewee does not have negative feelings towards hearing people speak in a language she doesn’t understand. She understands that it may be easier for people to speak in their preferred language. She is also aware that it may be offensive to others using one’s own language in certain situations such as in a classroom or in a group where there is a person who does not understand the language.

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?

  • The student has gained Australian citizenship recently but considers herself to be Vietnamese. Although she labels herself as a Vietnamese, as she got more used to the life in Australia, she does feel she has an Australian identity in some social settings. When she is with English-speaking friends, she feels like she has some sense of Australian identity.

14. Do the school atmosphere, students and staff provide a sense of belonging despite cultural and language differences? If yes, why?

  • The school atmosphere is welcoming towards different cultural backgrounds and holds events that are helpful in closing the gap between different cultures. One of the main event is ‘Harmony Day’, where multicultural flag ceremonies are held to celebrate the diversity. This also helps students to have a sense of belonging as a member of the school and build a sense of identity as Australian. Special classes exist for ESL students who have recently arrived in Australia or needs more attention and help with English across every year groups and subject areas. This allows students to have access to extra assistance for language not only in English but in maths, science, history and other subject areas. Teachers and staff also helps enhance a sense of belonging as most of staff have diverse cultural and language backgrounds so they are able to understand and empathise with students from their own experiences. Most of these staff are bilingual and being able to speak the language further creates a sense of connection and they are able to assist students when they need assistance.

15. Does your school have signs/texts that are written in different languages? Provide examples.

  • The school has many signs and texts written in different languages. In the school office in both IEC and the High School, the interpreting and translating services are written in different languages including English, Arabic, Chinese, Dari, Persian, Greek, Hazaragi, Italian, Japanese, Karen and Korean. There is also a welcome sign that is written in many languages in the office. In the hallways and assembly hall, there are various artworks that contain languages other than English including Japanese and Arabic. In the language classrooms, there are displays of student works in Japanese, French and Italian.

16. Does your school offer exchange program from other countries?

  • The school does offer exchange programs from other countries. The school hosts exchange programs that allows Japanese students to come to school and attend classes together with the students for a full term.

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?)

  • Yes, most of students at the school were interested to learn the Japanese culture and language and the students are welcoming and are willing to help exchange students learn English and adapt to the school environment. In return, the exchange students from Japan were happy to teach, correct and help improve the students’ Japanese. This process also happened naturally as in order to communicate and understand, students had to use both languages to get the meaning across.

18. Is there any presence of Indigenous language at school? Like what?

  • There are not much presence of Indigenous language at school. There are no written signs of Aboriginal languages. However, there are a lot of artworks in school that have Aboriginal culture including dot paintings and Aboriginal signs used for art.
Is Australia falling behind? - 4 April 2017

Australia is a country that is thriving with multiculturalism yet it seems there are many cases of our current students slowly becoming monolingual. It was discovered that Australian youth study less languages compared to the youth from other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (Tsung, n.d.). Students studying languages have decreased 27% since the 1960’s (MCEETYA, 2005). It seems less and less students are choosing to study another language forcing Australia to fall behind other countries where English is the main and primary language. Both in the US and in the UK, between 44-50% of high school students were studying another language all the way to Year 12 and as a second language for The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) (Eurydice 2008). In Sydney, 31.4% of Australians speak a language other than English at home but the problem that arises from these statistics is that if schools are not influencing, supporting and helping children develop these language skills, the maintenance of many languages other than English will become at risk (Clyne & Fernandez 2005). There is undeniable growing evidence that if Australia becomes monolingual, serious educational, economic and national security consequences will arise (Tsung, n.d.).

Group 6 conducted short interviews with students from 4 different schools to gain a deeper understanding of Australia’s current students and their experience with linguistic diversity in their schools. We wanted to find out if what we already knew about linguistic diversity in schools was true and if the articles we read online were relevant to a range of different schools in Sydney including those full of students from diverse backgrounds. As we were not able to physically go into the school for observations, we included a few questions in the interview to help us understand the linguistic diversity in the school playground where we would have originally planned to do the observation. Each member of Group 6 will be posting some photos and writing a blog post about their student interviews in the following weeks to find out just how linguistically diverse Australian schools are and if being a public, selective or foundation school impacts this.

 

Clyne, M., & Fernandez, S. (2005). Period of residence as a factor in language maintenance: Hungarian English bilinguals in Australia as a case study. International Journal Of Applied Linguistics, 149/150, 1-20.

National statement for languages education in Australian schools. (2005) (1st ed.). Hindmarsh, S. Aust.

The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency,. (2008). Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe.

Tsung, L. Harnessing Multilingualism and Linguistic Capital in China and Australia – China Express – Issue 1 – The University of Sydney. The University of Sydney. Retrieved 3 April 2017, from http://sydney.edu.au/china_studies_centre/china_express/issue_1/features/harnessing_multilingualism_and_linguistic_capital_in_china_and_australia.shtml

 

Schools in Sydney: Monolingual or Multilingual? - 22 March 2017

For our group, our domain is school and we will be focusing on the presence (or lack) of linguistic diversity within educational institutions. As school is a private domain, there seems to be limited access to information about our schools both online and in person. Since most of our participants will be underage, it will limit our research options (video recording, observation).

For data collections, we will be exploring four different schools in various locations (Castle Hill, Fairfield, Strathfield, and Normanhurst). We will be collecting our data through participating in short conversations with students (5-10 minutes duration) and writing the transcript to analyse linguistic diversity in our domain. We will also create a survey to collect data from a broad range of students from each individual area. The survey will consist of closed-ended and open-ended questions as well as multiple choice and short answers. In addition to the interview and survey, we will be visiting our schools and collecting photos of signs that show linguistic diversity (if there are any). Through these methods, we can explore different aspects of students’ attitudes and awareness towards linguistic diversity.

By next week, we are planning to visit our schools and interview students and the survey will be carried out throughout the study.

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