Frequently Asked Questions
A Language Friendly School
A Language Friendly School is a school that welcomes everyone and values all languages spoken by the students, parents and staff. A Language Friendly School aims to become linguistically and culturally inclusive by interweaving the values of languages into the fabric of the whole school.
Absolutely. Take a look at the school portraits of our Language Friendly Schools. Importantly, this is not a blueprint of what every Language Friendly School looks like. Every school defines its own path.
- Schools join the Language Friendly School Network because they want all their students to feel welcome. They want their students to express and enjoy their full identity including all the languages they speak. You can watch this video to learn more: Welcoming identities at the Language Friendly School
- Schools join the Language Friendly School Network because they want to create a stronger community around their school by increasing investment of parents and community workers.
- Schools join the Language Friendly School Network because they want their students to be motivated to learn the school languages. See this European report on innovative practices*.
- Schools join the Language Friendly School Network because they want to implement language friendly practices . By joining the Language Friendly School network, your school will have access to a global network of schools, teachers and experts who share their ideas, knowledge and good practices within a closed and secure environment. Every school is different, but there is always someone you can turn to for support.
*Le Pichon, E., Siarova, H. & Szonyi, E. (2020). The Future of language education in Europe: Case-Studies of innovative practices. NESET II report, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
There are many benefits to joining the network! Some examples include:
- Use of the Language Friendly School Label
- Access to a private platform with activities, pedagogical strategies, a research library and e-learning modules.
- Webinars, conferences and other (online) exchanges
- Connect with other Language Friendly Schools
- Personal feedback
See our brochure for more information.
Have a look at our map to see where Language Friendly Schools are located. And learn more about them by reading their school portraits!
- Research shows that integrating students' home languages into the school and the classroom, can help strengthen cognitive and social skills. Students learn better and faster through their mother tongue, and they have a higher chance of feeling part of the wider society without losing the connection to their families and cultural background.
- Have a look at these publications:
- Collier, V.P., & Thomas, W.P. (2017). Validating the power of bilingual schooling: Thirty-two years of large-scale, longitudinal research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 37, 1-15.
- Global Education Monitoring Report (2016). If you don’t understand, how can you learn? Policy Paper 24.
- Herzog-Punzenberger, B.; Le Pichon-Vorstman, E. & Siarova, H., (2017). Multilingual Education in the Light of Diversity: Lessons Learned, NESET II report, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2017. doi: 10.2766/71255.
- UNESCO (2004). Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for Creating Inclusive Learning Friendly-Environments.
- UNESCO (2017). Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education: The Key to Unlocking SDG 4 - Quality Education for All.
- Language Friendly Schools have exclusive access to our research library
What Language Friendly Schools do
Language friendly schools value all languages and make sure that no student is prohibited or discouraged from using their home language in the school environment.
They can create opportunities for students to share their home language, perform school work in their home language, or receive academic support in their home language. But no two language friendly schools look exactly the same as each has its own unique linguistic profile, expertise and capabilities.
Need ideas on how to make your classroom or school more language friendly? Look no further! Our Toolkit for Language Friendly Schools contains various activities.
Not a language friendly school yet? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn and be inspired by what other schools do.
The Language Friendly School-coordinator is the main contact person for the school and the Rutu Foundation. They will be responsible for communication, they will coordinate implementation of the Language Friendly School plan, draft reports, follow-ups and evaluation.
This is different for each school and depends on the relationship they have with their parents. A Language Friendly School is created by the whole school community, and parents are an integral part of this community.
For most schools, the first step is to create a welcoming environment. Other examples are: welcoming parents to the school in their own language by student language ambassadors; making languages visible at school; translating (news)letters into home languages and organizing (online) information sessions.
How does it work in the classroom?
The languages of the school are essential for the development of the students but should not be learned at the expense of the emotional and cognitive development of the student.
Research shows that if children can read in their own language, they will be able to transfer their knowledge to the language of the school. Children do not need to learn to read twice.
A student's mother tongue can be used during teaching to maximize learning. If this is done, learning the language of the school as well as the academic content will be faster and better.
Need ideas on how to make your classroom or school more language friendly? Look no further! Our Toolkit for Language Friendly Schools contains various activities. Not a language friendly school yet? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn and be inspired by what other schools do.
Want to know more? Watch this video.
Children are always children! Research has shown that when children are allowed to speak in their own languages to help each other, understand a concept, play, do homework, they rarely talk about anything else but that. It is important that children understand why you encourage languages in the classroom (solving a problem, understanding a lesson, ...).
Some teachers make “class rules” with their students that their students sign and which are then posted on the walls. Children may still argue, but if there is open communication in your classroom, they will come and talk to you about it and you can help them solve the problem. It is best to talk openly with them and make it the subject of a class discussion.
Watch this video for more information.
Not necessarily. At the Language Friendly School, we believe in welcoming students’ home languages into the school, the classroom and the school community in meaningful and useful ways.
Sometimes that may mean offering lessons and final exams in the students’ home languages. Some schools work together with external organizations who provide home language classes at the school but outside school hours. Other schools leave it up to the parents to provide home language instruction.
Your students speak a wide variety of languages? That’s fantastic news! Linguistic diversity is always an asset.
Not only will the discussions be richer, but the children will be able to open up to the world. Discovering languages will give you the opportunity to integrate a lesson of geography, history, natural sciences, maths, etc. For example, it is interesting to discover that the spelling of numbers is not the same in English, in Arabic and in Chinese. But what does it look like in these languages? However, the result of 1+1 is always 2!
No, children always want to learn the language of the environment and the common language spoken by their friends and classmates.
The question is not whether the children will learn the language of the school, but rather how they will learn it. As one of the Language Friendly Schools put it: “our children first need to feel comfortable, then we can start teaching them”. Meaning that when children feel safe and secure - among other because they are allowed to express themselves in their home language - they are more open to learning.
There are many different ways that teachers integrate the different languages spoken by their students to facilitate learning the school language. But learning the school language is only part of what school is about. Children need to learn many different subjects and develop various social emotional skills. Language Friendly Schools share their strategies on how to use all languages for these purposes. They also have access to a Toolkit of Language Friendly Activities. We also organize workshops or specifically adapted training.
Not a Language Friendly School yet? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn and be inspired by what other schools do.
How to become a Language Friendly School
- The Language Friendly School does not provide a blueprint of what schools must do. Rather, it starts with what schools need and what they can realistically accomplish.
- At the very minimum, schools commit not to punish children speaking their mother tongue. For some schools this is already a significant step. By connecting with other Language Friendly Schools they can share good practices and teachers can be inspired to take a next step forward.
1. Assessment of the situation
The school assesses together with their entire entire team what they are already doing and explores the ambitions of becoming (more) language friendly. Have a look at the Roadmap and the tips for making a plan below.
By filling out the registration form, your school starts the formal onboarding process. The team at the Language Friendly School reviews the information provided by you. Register here
3. Involving School Leadership
After the review, the Language Friendly School Team plans a meeting with the principal, headmaster or school leader.
The school commits in writing to the basic requirements (see Roadmap)
5. Your school is a Language Friendly School!
The school receives a certificate, can use the label and has access to the online platform. The plans of the school are discussed in an intake meeting with the coordinator.
6. Language Friendly School Plan
During two years, the school develops a Language Friendly School Plan, implements and evaluates it. Support and professional development is offered through one-on-one meetings and e-learning (see memberships below). Exchange with other Language Friendly Schools and experts is facilitated.
- For the use of the online platform, the twice-yearly feedback there is an annual fee for two years.
- Costs should not be an obstacle to participating in the Language Friendly School network. Schools that for any reason are unable to pay the annual amount, we ask to contact us.
- Schools who may wish to support their fellow schools are encouraged to donate to the Rutu Foundation (bank account IBAN NL81 INGB 0006043020, citing 'donation Language Friendly School'.)
- As a teacher, you can start small by incorporating language friendly activities in your own classroom. There are many activities and lesson plans that are very simple to start with. You can find free resources online, check out the Rutu Foundation Youtube channel for example. After a while, other teachers will notice the results that these activities will have on the children and then they might be motivated to join. Do keep in touch with us. We regularly organize (free) webinars that are open to the public.
The Language Friendly School is an initiative of the Rutu Foundation for Intercultural Multilingual Education, a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For more information please contact:
- Dr. Ellen-Rose Kambel
- Dr. Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman
University of Toronto
Utrecht University firstname.lastname@example.org