On the 21st of February, Berlin was celebrating International Mother Language Day. All events during this day aim to facilitate the further development of foreign language teaching and to promote multilingualism.
The online event was organised by MigraUp project active in Berlin district Pankow, where the local Council is actively developing and looking for new concepts and partners to promote multilingual education in Schools and kindergartens. Koopkultur presented the LANG@WORK project at one of the workshops in front of 10 participants. The group consisted of teachers, representatives of migration organisations as well as interested people, who work with languages and multilingual groups. All of them heard of the term Translanguaging for the first time.
We asked the participants 2 questions:
- What is your experience in relation to multilingualism in your workplace?
- How can inclusive work environments be created in the context of migration and multilingualism?
We found out that majority of our participants speak and understand more than one language.
They observe more and more people arriving in Berlin, who do not speak German. Other languages like English or Arabic are used to mediate conversations in organisations working with migrants from Afghanistan, for example. Teachers have to use English more frequently to communicate with parents. Moreover, parents who do not speak German are often left behind in schools' parent communities in "monolingual" schools.
We heard a lot about the frustrations of initiating a conversation in a foreign language in an unfamiliar environment. Some participants remember, that a few years ago teachers couldn't use any other languages than German in schools when communicating in public with a colleague.
Our group agreed that we all feel more comfortable in a circle of foreign people, who speak different languages and make mistakes when speaking or share/experience similar insecurity. We discussed possible solutions that would help people to overcome their frustration of linguistic insecurity. The common opinion was to find ways to get rid of a “red pen” or a ”failure culture”. We learn when we make mistakes and we should seek freedom from this fear.
One suggestion for schools we heard was to bring regular classes to learn in museums, which provide audio guides in different languages. That would supply everybody with an equal knowledge base.
It also may help to observe multilingual children, who talk to each other and actively use body language and gestures to make sure they deliver their messages. Therefore, relaxation, theatrical and artistic practices and techniques may help to feel more confident and be more flexible in applying different communication strategies.
We hope to meet at least part of the group again and continue our fruitful discussion at various activities to develop methods and practices applying translanguaging.
The project has officially started. We are very excited!