To Mix Languages or Not?:Preschool Bilingual Education in Malta

Mifsud, Charles L. and Vella, Lara Ann (2018) To Mix Languages or Not?:Preschool Bilingual Education in Malta. In: Preschool Bilingual Education. Multilingual Education . Springer, Cham, pp. 57-98. ISBN 9783319772271

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Abstract

Malta has a long-standing, successful bilingualism. There is a strong political and societal desire in Malta to maintain balanced Maltese-English bilingualism, as well as an understanding that this is an ideological as well as a purely linguistic question (Language Education Policy Profile for Malta, Language policy unit. Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 2015). In addition, Malta has in practice adopted the immersion pedagogical method (National Literacy Strategy for All in Malta and Gozo, Ministry for Education and Employment, Malta, 2014). The sociolinguistic situation is one of plurilingual repertoires with languages at different points on the bilingual continuum. In a recent study, about 400 early childhood educators from the state sector have reported that they make use of both Maltese and English in a fairly ‘balanced’ way throughout the day. Both languages are introduced simultaneously early on in the kindergarten classes. The majority of the educators switch readily from one language to the other in order to accommodate language diversity in the classroom and to facilitate learning. This was confirmed through classroom observations which focussed on the educators’ bilingual strategies. The data from these observations reveal the degree of the educators’ flexibility in switching from one language to another and the contexts of switching. Such a policy of systematic bilingual education takes advantage of pupils’ initial linguistic repertoires, and focuses greater attention on aspects of the plurilingual construction of knowledge in school subjects. These elements still need to be made more explicit in key policy documentation so that they may be put into practice more consistently in Maltese preschool contexts. It is a consolidation of this kind that will ensure that the Maltese bilingual education system continues to guarantee the right to high-quality education and academic success for all pupils. From a pedagogical point of view, a clearly agreed learning contract could be established between teachers and pupils relating to a more systematic alternation of languages in the classroom. The main thing would be to ensure that language barriers of any kind should not be an obstacle to the potential for pupils to learn or to express themselves. The ultimate aim of bilingual education is to develop bilingual people who are able to function as such, in other words to use either Maltese or English appropriately in a monolingual context but also to operate using both languages in alternation, depending on the context and the linguistic repertoire of interlocutors.

Item Type:
Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings
ID Code:
130996
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
01 Feb 2019 08:55
Refereed?:
No
Published?:
Published
Last Modified:
25 Sep 2020 05:46