Dr Lina Mukhopadhyay is Associate Professor at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India. Her research interests are second language acquisition, reading development, language assessment and testing, and bi/multilingual education and she has published in each of these areas.

Follow Lina on Twitter @lina_eflu

Multilingualism and Multiliteracy: Raising learning outcomes in challenging contexts in primary schools across India 1

Project Rationale and Task-Design 

Blog 1

India is a country of multiple languages, diverse cultures and with a complex range of social demographics. The multilingual reality is etched out in the social domain as a continuum where Indians can function from being monolinguals in their mother tongue (or a stronger language), especially in the written mode, to being multilinguals and practice code-switching as a natural means of oral communication. This is also reflected in formal contexts like that of administration, business and higher academics, barring a few contexts like in the English classroom where monolingual identities are what is expected, practiced and legitimized. However, this sudden jump from a multilingual mode of functioning to keeping languages separate in the educational domain becomes rather challenging for a vast majority of learners for whom though English is a lived reality only in the classroom, it is a language of social aspiration and mastery of this language is seen as an escalator towards success and higher job prospects. So, it becomes imperative that knowledge of this language is made available to the vast majority of young Indian learners who aspire to achieve academic and professional success by acquiring communicative competence in English. 

Hence, in this study we explore cognitive executive function ability and multilingual repertoire of learners from low socio-economic status (SES) and who study under challenging circumstances. We assess their linguistic and mathematical abilities in two languages – language of medium of instruction (or mother tongue) and English. This study is a step towards finding evidence for the assumption that if academic skills are well developed in learners’ mother tongue (or the stronger language) then transfer of those skills and success in English would be more strongly felt than learners whose academic skills are expected to grow in English without a recourse to the knowledge of their stronger language. 


Multilingualism and Multiliteracy: Raising learning outcomes in challenging contexts in primary schools across India 2

Project Rationale and Task-Design 

Blog 2

Telling stories is what comes naturally to children. They readily volunteer to tell stories and a few enthusiastic ones also do that by emoting the characters with zest and animation. For language acquisition researchers this is a matter of great joy because through the act of storytelling they are able to get evidences of language competence and developmental efforts when children narrate stories. In a recent ESL classroom in India, a child was shown a picture strip of a cat and a boy taken from the Multilingual Assessment Instruments for Narratives (MAIN) manual. Along with the visuals the child heard the story in English (L2). When the child was asked to retell the story and answer a few comprehension questions, he chose to do these academic tasks in Hindi (L1). From the child’s responses it was clear that the child could comprehend in L2 to answer higher order inferential questions and use internal state terms (from the theory of mind) during narration when allowed to express in L1 or the stronger language. This instance of translanguaging is an example to show that when multilingual learners are allowed to use their stronger language or L1, they show academic benefits in L2. It is because the cognitive academic skills available through their stronger language become accessible in the learning of L2. If ESL teachers recognize the benefits of using multilingual resources in the English classroom and try out the modality of translanguaging, then learners are likely to respond to such interesting strategies and be motivated and encouraged to develop L2 knowledge.