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Teaching Monolingual vs. Multilingual Classes

Teaching Monolingual vs. Multilingual Classes | ITTT | TEFL Blog

If we are going to look at is the differences between teaching monolingual and multilingual classes, then firstly we should define what we mean by these two things.

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What is Monolingual?

Monolingual students are a group of students that all have the same native language and typically such classes taught in that country. So an example of that could be the teaching of English to Thai students in Thailand. The chances are that the vast majority of your class will all speak Thai so they all have the same L1.

The difference with a Multilingual class is that the students will have a range of first languages so they have different L1’s. An example here may be the teaching of English to a group of students from a range of countries, in an English speaking country.

Whether your class is monolingual or multilingual they bring a range of possible advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages first of all for the monolingual class.

For a monolingual class, because they all come from the same country and speak the same language they're going to have some common difficulties. This is an advantage to the teacher because we can work on those common difficulties with the whole class.

Secondly because they're all from the same country they will be culturally similar.

Finally another advantage with the monolingual class is that they can actually help each other in their native language.

What potential disadvantages are there with having a monolingual class?

Whilst they can help each other in their L1 and this may be okay at the lower levels say up to pre intermediate. In fact it can often actually be more effective to allow them to do so. However at the higher levels we should be discouraging use of their L1. So we should try and discourage that at the higher level.

Secondly they will have less natural exposure to L2 as a monolingual class if you remember we said an example of a monolingual class was teaching English to Thai students in Thailand. They are going to have less natural exposure to the English language in Thailand than they would in England.

What is Multilingual?

So what about the multilingual class what are some of the advantages of teaching those?

One of the advantages is that they have no common language as they come from different countries throughout the world and they all speak a different first language. The fact that they have no common language is actually an advantage to us because their only common language in that situation is therefore going to be English.

Another advantage of a multilingual class because they come from different countries throughout the world they will have a large variety of experiences and those experiences can be used within our classroom.

One further advantage that the multilingual class will have is because they're learning the language in an English-speaking country they are going to have more exposure to that English language.

Disadvantages of a Multilingual Class

Some of the disadvantages of a multilingual class include the fact that although they have some common difficulties within the multilingual class some students may find some concepts very easy because it's closer to their native language than others. Therefore there may be some difficulties that we may have to explain to a particular group of students from a particular country, about certain things that the whole class is generally okay with.

Finally one potential disadvantage is that because they come from different ethnic backgrounds we need to be very careful to be culturally aware of what we're doing and saying within the classroom.

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