By Kelli Drummer-Avendano
Whether you want to promote the benefits of multilingualism or make English language learners feel welcome and appreciated in your classroom, learning about different languages and cultures brings benefits for everyone. Here are some ideas to celebrate linguistic diversity all year long.
1. World music
Play music from different countries to go along with activities or just for fun at the end of the day. Each week you could showcase music from a specific country or culture. After the first song you play, have students guess where it comes from. If possible, some of the music you feature could be remakes of popular English-language songs that students would recognize.
2. International Mother Language Day
Since the year 2000, UNESCO has designated February 21st as the day to celebrate mother languages. If you have students whose native language is not English, have them teach the class a simple sentence or how to say hello and goodbye. Even if all your students are native English speakers, by recognizing and celebrating International Mother Language Day, you are supporting and encouraging linguistic diversity.
3. Language Career Day
Organize a career day that focuses on languages. Invite professionals to the classroom to talk about how they use languages in their careers. If it’s not possible to have guests visit the classroom, divide the class into groups and have each one give a presentation on a career that requires multilingualism.
4. International food fair
Food brings us together. It’s something that we all share and yet something that makes us different. Once or twice a year, have an international food fair where students can bring a dish to share with the class. The dish could be a part of their family’s heritage or from a culture, they admire and would like to learn more about. Students could also write down the ingredients in the language of the country the dish is from and the class could guess what they are.
5. Cultural festivals
A fun and easy way to promote different cultures and languages is to celebrate festivals and holidays from around the world. Students will find this learning opportunity enjoyable, especially because you can say you’re having a party—and who doesn’t like a party? Be sure to include celebrations from students’ home cultures if applicable.
6. Classroom labels
Labeling classroom objects in both English and another language exposes students to the abundance of language diversity every day. Again, if there are students in your class who speak a different language at home, put some of the labels in that language, but also use others. Students can participate in designing the labels and hanging them up.
Poetry and literature lend themselves perfectly to celebrating languages. You can use simple poetry, such as nursery rhymes, to introduce a new language. More complex literature can be shared in English with some words kept in the original language. Allow students to work together, using context clues to figure out what the words mean. Finally, discussing reading in the framework of the culture from which it comes strengthens the idea of language as an expression of culture.