Integrating plurilingual practices in ELT in a superdiverse
Angelica Galante, University of Toronto
Many adult international students taking EAP programs in Canada often ask
instructors for strategies to integrate into the new country and to communicate with
Canadians, speakers of English as an L1. One main concern shared by students relates to
the need to follow the local Canadian culture, both at social and educational levels.
However, the need to conform to one single culture does not seem accurate in a country
that is officially bilingual but where multilingualism and multiculturalism is the norm.
This issue motivated me to reflect on pedagogical practices in the EAP classroom that
could promote and enhance students’ plurilingual and pluricultural practices.
My PhD research study investigates the extent to which plurilingual and
pluricultural tasks can enhance EAP students’ awareness of individual and social
linguistic and cultural diversity. First, I developed 10 tasks that followed a plurilingual
and pluricultural framework (Council of Europe, 2001; 2007), which considers all
languages and cultural experiences students have in their repertoire (L1, L2, L3, etc.) as
an asset to learn an additional language and culture. Then, I recruited Academic Listening
and Speaking instructors (N=7) in a university EAP program in Toronto, Canada. The
teachers applied one task per week with their students (N=70), who were also participants
in the study. A vast majority of the students were from China, with a few students from
other countries such as Ecuador, Turkey and Russia. Five instructors were Canadian-born
and two were foreign-born. Besides English, all of the instructors spoke other languages
and had experience teaching in other countries.
Plurilingual and pluricultural tasks typically include strategies such as
comparisons across languages (e.g., morphology, semantics, writing systems, phonology)
and cross-cultural awareness. These tasks can be used in EAP programs to promote
cultural and linguistic awareness, validate students’ identity, and provide an opportunity
for students to exercise their linguistic and cultural agency (Coste, Moore and Zarate,
2009). Figure 1 shows a sample of a plurilingual task delivered at the start of the
Figure 1: Plurilingual task
The goal of this task was twofold: first, it aimed at encouraging students to realize the
diverse linguistic and cultural landscape of Toronto as well as the university where
students were taking the EAP program, where both professors and students hail from
different countries; second, it provided an opportunity for students to identify the
diversity within their own linguistic and cultural identity, particularly given the fact that
all the students spoke a minimum of two languages (English and their L1) and had lived
in at least two different countries (Canada and their country of origin). During this task,
students reported that many factors listed were part of their identity. For example, many
Chinese students reported that their favourite TV shows were Korean drama and Japanese
anime, which made it possible for them to learn a few words in both Korean and
Preliminary results from classroom observations and teacher interviews indicate
that by completing the tasks, students’ awareness of their own plurilingual and
pluricultural identity increased. Another important result is that students realized that a
single concept of Canadian culture is inexistent, which is significant particularly in a
multicultural and multilingual setting such as Toronto, Canada, where students will
communicate with people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Finally,
given that students were given the opportunity to share their languages and cultures in
class, a growing interest in learning about their classmates’ languages and cultures was
Results from teacher interviews indicate that all instructors found the tasks to be
beneficial for students, particularly to those who do not seem confident in their speaking
skills. They reported that the tasks allowed students to be in role of authority as they are
knowledgeable about their languages and cultures and were willing to share their
expertise with others. One implication identified by the instructors refers to the need to
inclusion all students’ languages and cultures, especially in classes where a vast majority
of students are from one country and speak the same L1; thus, it is important that all
languages and cultures be represented. Finally, all the instructors reported having high
comfort levels applying the tasks and indicated their interest in applying similar tasks in
future EAP classes.
In conclusion, plurilingual and pluricultural tasks can be used in EAP programs to
help students integrate in a diverse setting, such as Toronto, Canada, but also in other
countries. As well, encouraging students to make use of their own languages and cultures
— not only English — seems to validate their plurilingual identity.
Coste, D., Moore, D., and Zarate, G. 2009. ‘Plurilingual and pluricultural competence:
Studies towards a Common European Framework of Reference for language
learning and teaching’. Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe Publishing.
Council of Europe. 2001. ‘Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.’
Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe Publishing.
Council of Europe. 2007. ‘Guide for the development of language education policies in
Europe: From linguistic diversity to plurilingual education’. Strasbourg, France:
Council of Europe Publishing.
Galante, A. (2018). Integrating plurilingual practices in ELT in a superdiverse world. In
T. Pattison (ed.), International Conference of the International Association of
Teachers of English as a Foreign Language: Vol. 51. Glasgow conference
selections [pp.167–169]. Oxford, UK: IATEFL.