Malta Independent

70% of educators switch between English and Maltese when speaking in class

- ■ Jeremy Micallef

Taking into account the different categories of schools available, 70% of educators switch between the Maltese and English languages as a means of mediation in the classroom, according to a study titled Language Use in Early Childhood Education Classrooms in Malta.

The main objective of the study was to examine the various ways in which early childhood educators create a rich environmen­t for children in which they use Maltese and/or English.

It was authored by Lara Ann Vella, a Bilingual Research Officer at the language Policy in Education Unit of the National Literacy Agency of Malta; Charles L. Mifsud, the Director of the Centre for Literacy at the University of Malta; and David Muscat, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Literacy Agency of Malta.

Data for the study was collected using a questionna­ire with 440 early childhood educators in State and in Church Schools, observatio­n sessions in five class rooms (in State, Church, and Independen­t Schools) and in-depth interviews with the early childhood educators.

Speaking at the presentati­on of the study, Minister for Education Evarist Bartolo said that the strengthen­ing of bilinguali­sm was crucial.

“We must strengthen the use of Maltese and English between us – we should have an Official Language Act.”

Other countries which have a form of an “Official Language Act” have guidelines on how to properly use their respective official language(s).

Bartolo also raised the issue of the Maltese language being a digitally endangered language, maintainin­g that if we do not strengthen the digital presence of Maltese, then this will be the century in which we prepare for the Maltese language to die.

A study to see what is going on at child care centres was of similar importance, the Education Minister suggested, going on to insist that we also need more children studying a third language.

The main difference­s in language use between State and Church schools lie in the pre-writing activities, where educators in State Schools focus on Maltese and those in Church schools focus on English.

The results were then gathered from two separate studies – one qualitativ­e study that used the data collected from 440 early childhood educators, and one quantitati­ve study that used classroom observatio­ns and interviews.

The quantitati­ve study found that most educators organize activities in Maltese and in English to ensure that children are exposed to both languages, with the switching between languages used as a means of mediation.

There are also notable difference­s in language use in State schools based on the percentage of migrant learners present.

The qualitativ­e study found that all educators believe in the importance of bilingual developmen­t in young children, and that they adopt different models of bilingual education, which is further influenced by a range of factors.

Vella explained that bilinguali­sm has positive effects on children’s linguistic and educationa­l developmen­t, as they develop more flexibilit­y in their thinking as a result of processing informatio­n through two different languages.

Offering conclusion­s in the study, it was suggested that early childhood educators need to reflect critically on their language use and consider all activities in their classrooms to be language-learning opportunit­ies for children.

 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta