Report Expert Seminar on Early Language Learning
Hosted by MERCATOR, Fryske Akademy
Leeuwarden, Fryslân, The Netherlands
9-10 February, 2012
Prof. Bessie Dendrinos, [email protected]
University of Athens, & EFNIL,
This presentation:
Concentrates on the young student:
– as a school learner
– as a pedagogic (social) subject
Focuses on:
– ‘foreign’ language education curricular
– coherent curriculum-related policies
Suggests that ELL should facilitate the shift:
– from monolingual to multilingual
– from the development of competencies
and skills to the development of social
and communication-based literacies –
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Policy* for:
• Which context?
– ‘Foreign’ languages offered in schools
– The student in a formal school context
– FL education as a nationally (and supranationally) defined project
• Which social subjects?
– The young (primary) school-based learners
– Learners whose identity is defined by the
present but is shaped for future citizenry
• Which social conditions?
– Global/supranational conditions adapted to
local/national conditions, i.e., ‘glocal’ policy
* defined as a well-defined strategy of action
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Glocal (global+local), context-specific policy:
• Global conditions lead to language curricular
policies, which are determined by supranational
specifications but which are also subject to local
inflection, local transformation, or local
• Global conditions are a consequence of the
following social changes impossible to ignore
when designing language curricular policies,
– Changes in the forms of economies
– Changes in forms of transport (people or
– Changes in the cultural composition of societies
(cultural heterogeneity)
– Changes in the social media available and the
semiotic modes of meaning making
– Changes in institutional arrangements around
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
ELL as the basis of the new learner
• The new learner has to manage
communication in:
– multilingual contexts
– multicultural communicative situations
– multimodal discourse environments
• The new learner should develop multilingual
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
What is multilingual literacy?
• The ability and skills
– to make maximum use of all semiotic
resources available to us, so as to
communicate effectively in different
situational contexts, which are often bi-, triand multi-lingual (not the ability to speak
several separate languages)
– to use ‘translanguaging’ and mediation
techniques, drawing upon resources from a
variety of languages
– to use different forms of expression in
multimodal texts to create socially situated
meanings in different cultural contexts
– to use simultaneously different languages and
communicative activities (e.g., reading in one
and speaking in another.
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
From the mon- to the multi• The make the shift from a mono- to a
multi-lingual paradigm, we are obliged
to adopt a view of the languages and
cultures that people experience in their
immediate and wider environment as
meaning-making, semiotic systems,
interrelated to one another –not as
totally detached from one another, as
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Shifting from mono- to multilingualism
• Language education in European schools is
still viewed as a monolingual enterprise:
– Languages are taught, learnt and tested
one at a time
– L1 education is totally distinguished
from L2, L1 and L2 are distinguished
from additional (‘foreign’) languages
– language pedagogy is thought to be
effective when it creates and sustains a
linguistic and cultural island providing
the learner with ‘lots of target language
input’ so that s/he can be immersed .
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Monolingual curricular practices
• All teaching and assessment, as well as
curricular artefacts are still based on
monolingual approaches, viewing language
as a closed and finite system that does not
enable other languages to ‘smuggle in’.
• Teaching and testing materials endorse the
idea that effective communication is
monolingual and that proficient users of a
language do not use ‘hybrid’ forms; they do
not mix languages or codes.
• This monolingualism is in stark contrast to
the current ethos of multilingual
communication during which languages
and semiotic modes ‘bleed’ into one
another in creative ways.
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Why persist on such practices?
• Historical reasons
– They are consistent with times of relative
social stability, where curricula were a
means for reproducing the young in the
image of the dominant culture. The
corresponding language theories
materialized in the structuralist grammars
of the time (in sink with the dominant
ideologies of the post war era), and the
pedagogies were a means for modeling and
sustaining particular models of for social
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Why persist on such practices?
• Economic reasons
– Viewed within the social and political context of
language teaching and testing, monolingual
policies entail material and symbolic profit for
those who are key players in the international
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Why modify aim of language education?
• To respond to today’s communicational
landscape which is multimodal* and
multilingual. This means that language
education should no longer be seen as
simply to achieve ‘mastery’ of one or two,
or even three languages, each taken in
isolation, with the ‘ideal native speaker’
as the ultimate model.
* Multimodal communication is that which makes use of two or
more semiotic modes (e.g. written language, image and sound)
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
A new communicational landscape
• The changes mentioned earlier have led to
profound social and cultural transformations,
which, if considered together with the
technological developments in ecommunication, should lead to a radical
rethinking of 'the language-user'.
• The access that language users now have to etechnology makes each and every one a
producer of meanings capable of reaching a
potentially vast audience.
• As the texts produced exist in digital form,
interactivity becomes a reality.
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Developing design abilities
• The questions the effective communicator
need now ask are related to how to
distribute information across the semiotic
modes (language included), available to the
speaker-writer so as to produce particular
effects for the intended audience.
• Design goes beyond competent
performance within the potentials of one
• In the new environment, the question of the
potentials of each mode as a productive
resource, capable of transformation, joined
with the questions around the best use of
the different representational potentials of
the various modes, demand a different set
of practices.
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Developing design abilities
• All this is crucial for new language
curricula, where learners cannot be viewed
as 'acquiring' the stable/static resources of a
semiotic system, and adapting to that
• Learners are to be seen as transformative,
innovative, creative subjects.
• In such curricula, the notion of design
gathers up and goes beyond both
competence and points to the
disappearance of the paradigms of the
mass-society, and their shaping and
positioning of individuals, including
individual language 'users'.
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Curricular policies for Early
Language Teaching and Learning
• ‘Foreign’ or additional language learning
starting in preschool or first primary grades
should help achieve goals such as the
– development of new beliefs and attitudes
towards language(s)
– shaping a multilingual ethos of
– developing skills as a designer of
meaning multimodally
– developing social literacy through the
use of various semiotic resources
– Developing inter- and intra-linguistic
mediation strategies
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens
Course design policy aims for
early FL
• Design course for language learning, not
• Assess language learning strategies rather
than the result of learning or teaching
• Design activities so that learners
– experience the meaning-making process
– become aware of the importance of the
different semiotic modes
– indulge in translanguaging and
– be creative in trying to achieve defined
communicative purposes
Bessie Dendrinos, University of Athens

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