In our many-faceted, multicultural world, identities build on one another. A student can be from one country but feel at home in many, in the same way that they can cherish the traditions of their home culture while taking part in and celebrating those of others. This is a value that the BSN holds in high regard: giving students the ability to learn and grow in an internationally British setting while still having the chance to identify with and share their home culture.

Translanguaging is a model of language learning which allows the student to grow their school language skills while at the same time accessing, developing and making connections with their mother tongue or home language. It is a mind-set that goes beyond the language classroom, integrating language leaning with all school subjects and encouraging students to access their language ability to express themselves throughout their school day.

“She had the freedom to work in English or Spanish – or both.  It was so good for her self-esteem. She felt like she had choices, not limitations on her languages.  Translanguaging has given a depth to (her) language that I did not expect.”

 As students may be able to express themselves more accurately in their home language rather than in simplified English, Translanguaging allows them to participate more confidently in class. Older students can help younger students with translation between shared home languages into English, parents can come into the classroom and share their stories and traditions, and pride in one’s cultural identity has room to grow.

“He had to work so hard to learn English and he wanted to fit in to his school and I think his Arabic identity suffered a little.  (Translanguaging) has made (him) feel special about being Omani and being bilingual.”

The benefits of translanguaging are not lost on native English speakers. As we are all living in the Netherlands, even the students who speak English as their home language are active language learners! Making sure the multicultural aspect of the BSN is integrated into every class nurtures a heightened cultural awareness and respect, and makes sure each student knows that their unique identities are valued and appreciated.

Illustration from the book “Lila and the Secret of Rain” with vocabulary written in classroom home languages

Translanguaging is an important tool in expanding rather than restricting cultural identities, while still delivering excellent English as an Additional Language education. This is on the cutting-edge of language learning, and is a developing programme at the BSN.

For more information, follow the BSN English as an Additional Language team on Twitter here: @BSN_EAL