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Translanguaging in kindergartens and schools? How?

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Koopkultur team together with a partner organisation from Pankow borough of Berlin MigraUp were running a workshop on Multilanguaging at the meeting "Von der Kita in die Schule, Wege entstehen beim gemeinsamen Gehen" ("From the kindergarten to school, paths are created by walking together").

Koopkultur presented Translanguaging as a method to help multilingual children and teachers adapt to a new environment and learn effectively. Koopkultur shared some practical tips and personal experiences. Thanks to the LANG@WORK project, we have been able to develop our ideas about working with multilingual children and hopefully also support educators on this challenging journey.

The majority of the participants worked in kindergartens and there was a great interest in the topic among the audience. Although all participants in the workshop worked with multilingual children, only a few educators used some translanguaging practices in their daily practice either to comfort children, or to make sure they understood the message, or to relax children with lullabies in family languages during their nap time. Those who used translanguaging practices didn't recognise them by that name, as the term 'translanguaging' was new to all participants.

Participants also shared that they didn't use the practice for a variety of reasons. One of them was that there are too many children who need support and it's hard for one person to do it. In the bilingual kindergarten, the practice of one person - one language is used in order not to confuse the children, but many educators have a migrant background and speak other languages.

One participant also acknowledged that there are no practices to check the cognitive development of children in kindergartens that are only based on the knowledge of German. Many children with a migrant background receive 'integration status', which means that they need additional support from an extra person, but the cognitive development of children may be normal, it's just that there are not many people who can professionally assess it and support language learning in a particular Institution.

After our presentation, we asked the participants to think of activities they could suggest for a multilingual group to support family languages and learn about animals in the city at the same time.

The teams were really creative and we could see that the repertoire of ideas and activities was quite wide, from a poster with animals in different languages and books/songs to museum activities and asking parents to help. However, all the teams did not really acknowledge and take into account their linguistic background. Each group shared between 4 and 6 different languages that could be used in the activities. We hope that this question and answer session really helped educators to understand that they are not speechless and that they can help children to be active and feel welcome in the group or class.

Maryna from the Koopkultur team also shared how the work with the Welcome class in the museum was done in such a way that all children could participate in the activities and complete the project. The role of the teacher and individual people from organisations who speak the children's language was also acknowledged.

In our presentation we emphasised that educators can and should ask for help from the many migrant organisations in Berlin and especially in Pankow. According to the presentation of our partner MigraUp, of the 30 international organisations active in this field, 15 support multilingualism and are actively looking for practices and support in this area.

Finally, educators shared their concern that they need resources and mentoring help to implement multilingual/translanguaging practices in their institutions. It seems that teamwork can be a challenge in some kindergartens or institutions and people may not have time and enough support to create a project that supports multilingualism in the institution.

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