TEACHING FOREIGN LANGUAGES IN A MULTICULTURAL BILINGUAL SOCIETY
The cultural diversity presents certain problems when speaking about teaching of foreign languages due to peculiar demands of multiethnic plurilingual groups that a teacher faces in their everyday practice. The educational landscape formed by a range of cultures and religions require special training and approach to the whole system of teaching.
Our experience is based on teaching the Spanish language to bilingual groups presented by Russian and Tartar nationalities with numerous representatives of national minorities in the Republic of Tatarstan (Russia). These poliethnic groups not only differ in their nationality but also in religion what complicates the task of a teacher. The teacher of a foreign language is not only expected to increase awareness of students of their national and religious diversity but to take into account peculiarities of bilingual approach to learning languages.
Bilingual students in general are considered to have different from monolingual students mechanisms of learning foreign languages due to their specific mechanisms of code-changing and various social contexts that require code-changing.
Moreover, bilingual students in multiethnic communities show amazingly higher results in learning other foreign languages. Investigations prove that bilingual children that enter a community with a different from their mother tongue language adapt easier and in shorter time.
Another point to consider about bilingual students is their emotional intelligence diversity what reflects in a variety of linguistic resources used to express different emotional states.
Bilingualism in the Republic of Tatartsan (Russia) has a specific character. Bilingual children develop a balanced bilingualism in the first years of their life in case of poliethnic family. Upon entering a monolingual social space (nursery and primary school) their bilingualism tends to become social, marked by a social context that bilinguals have to deal with. Skills in one language may decline though the speakers acknowledge that they continue “switching” automatically from one language to another.
A teacher of a foreign language in this situation may come across various interferences that a bilingual student produces while learning a foreign language. These interferences are even more intensive when a teacher uses one of the mother tongues in order to explain some difficult points in the process of education. Enquiries showed that bilinguals allude to these explanations as possible reasons of the difficulties in studies. Moreover, the situation may be complicated by the fact that emotional component of the students’ speech can be affected by the second mother tongue.
On the other side, bilingual students show better results in language skills and it takes them less time to acquire a good command of a foreign language. Bilingual students are better able to focus their attention on relevant information and ignore distractions. In case of adults, bilinguals are less predisposed to brain aging which helps them to acquire a foreign language with less efforts and disappointments.
In many ways, having a bilingual group of students is a challenge for a teacher of a foreign language and requires some specific technics and methods in order to deal with the difficulties and to take advantage of the benefits of teaching the bilinguals.