Multilingual and Monolingual Groups: What are the Differences?
First and foremost I am going to assume by monolingual groups, we are referring to groups of students who all speak the same language, and multilingual groups refers to groups where the students all speak different languages, not that they are necessarily multilingual. Each group has its challenges, but I can also the benefits of teaching each group.
And of course every case will be unique, so it may just also depend on the situation you are in. But these are what I believe in general are common things you may come across.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Crystal N. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
For monolingual groups, if you can speak the students’ native language then you will have a better understanding of what challenges they may face. It will be easier to predict what issues they might have as a class overall. As a result, you can easily prevent and prepare for those problems that may arise. For example, in Japanese, there isn’t really an ‘L’ sound and is usually translated into an ‘R’ sound, so for many students, it is difficult to differentiate between the two. As a teacher, I know this is an issue across the board as it’s a language issue, so I can address this with pronunciation practice and listening practice with minimal pairs.
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On the flip side with a multilingual group, you can’t necessarily take this approach as the students may speak a wide range of languages. And many of them you most likely won’t know or know much about. So it is a little more difficult to see what challenges the students may have. As a teacher, you can try to research the major differences between most of the students’ native languages and English to at least get an idea of what issues who may face. The other challenge you may face is trying to prevent any cultural issues from arising as you are now also dealing with students of varying backgrounds. With a monolingual group be aware of any cultural manners will tend to be easier as it will be shared common knowledge among your students. With a multilingual and multicultural group, you need to be careful to step any boundaries and also to make sure students do not have any issues with each other.
Advantages of Multilingual Groups
But one of the advantages to a multilingual group is that English may be their only common language, therefore they have no choice but to use English to speak with each other. With a monolingual group, the students are tempted to use their native language since they know their classmates will understand them. And of course, this is helpful when a student who understands can explain things to their classmates who do not understand in their native language.
But by having English as their only common language they can fully immerse themselves in the language and exponential increase their language ability. I also believe it is a more realistic representation of the world, so they will realize quickly that English is a skill that will benefit them later on in life. By not having a choice, it pushes the students a little out of their comfort zone and truly allows them to learn the language.
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So there are advantages and disadvantages to both, but regardless as a teacher, you will just have to flexible and adapt your teaching style to suit your students as best as you can. Every situation is going to be different, so we can only try to prepare so much beforehand. Many times you will just have to adjust and learn along the way what will work and what will not work for your students regardless of their age, gender, or background.
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