What Is A Culturally Linguistically Diverse Student?

Before we jump head straight into “what a culturally linguistically diverse student is”, it is pertinent that we take an overview of linguistic diversity. Linguistics is synonymous to language and this ability for humans to communicate with speeches and words is the major difference between humans and animals. Animals pass across messages through body language, vocalization, and other means that have nothing to do with a systematic form of communication. The earth presently consists over seven billion people with as many as six thousand languages. It’s unavoidable that some languages are spoken only by a few category of persons, especially the small tribal groups which are found in the wild areas and part of the world and being that some languages can dominate others. Therefore, linguistic diversity measures the variation of language family, grammar, and vocabulary. The linguistic diversity of a locality with a human population can be measured numerically with a term- linguistic diversity index. So lets’ begin with What Is A Culturally Linguistically Diverse Student?

What Is A Culturally Linguistically Diverse Student?

This concept measures the diversity of languages spoken in a country, geographical area or place. The range scales from “0” to “1”. When the result comes out as “0” index, it means no linguistic diversity that is, everyone speaks the same language while the result with index of “1” represents total diversity, meaning that no two persons speak the same language.

We have many ways of saying ‘linguistic diversity ‘ such as ‘verbal diversity ‘, ‘linguistic change ‘, ‘linguistic plurality ‘, ‘range of languages ‘, ‘linguistic variety ‘, and some others.

Characteristics of high linguistic diversity

This entails reasons, you will see high linguistic diversity in some regions.

  • Many ethnic groups in a country
  • Many historical and current trade routes
  • A very large population
  • A history of being colonies
  • Many mountains and  isolating  geographical features

What does it mean to be culturally and linguistically diverse?

Language has been a crucial element of culture. The difference in the language spoken comes with some range of diversity in humans such as different ideologies, and ways of life because culture is people’s way of life and, every culture has its unique language.

However, this term is mostly used by European Americans to refer to individuals who come from other racial and ethnic groups and has their languages as their first language.

In return to our subject question, we have seen that a culturally and linguistically diverse student simply implies a student whose background, home environment, and language are not English and whose cultural values may differ from the mainstream culture. Presently, these students are being called different names like Limited English Proficient (LEP), English-Language learner (ELL), etc.

In what way does cultural and linguistic diversity matter to students?

Cultural and linguistic diversity is an important factor in the classroom environment because of language deficiencies from a barrier to higher education. On some occasions, cultural and linguistic diversity amounts to low performance of the entire classroom. This can disrupts the teaching style and besides, negative perceptions of race by teachers can engineer negative expectations of minority students and impact the students’ achievements.

Therefore, this concern students in the sense that:

  • They might develop poor reading skills due to different language use.
  • Poor academic skills due to different course schedules and lack of interpretation of it.
  • They might be unable to contact their parents because of their inability to understand and get familiar with different types of electrical products.

How should we manage the classroom with culturally and linguistically diverse students?

Educators and teachers must create a platform for equal academic learning among students no matter the differences in their demographics and this can be achieved via the below process:

  • Acquire information about your students’ cultural backgrounds and appreciate their different cultures. This includes their different ethnicities, nationalities, religions etc. Teachers should embrace students’ different cultures by showing respect and acceptance.
  • Get to know about the students’ behaviours outside the school premises, the information of their lives that has many things to do with their backgrounds, and use the information positively during classes. For instance, teachers should try to cite examples that are relatable to students and of different cultures and backgrounds.
  • Employ diversity in teaching styles. Making room for different communication preferences, cognitive styles, and assessments result in lessons with a greater chance of embracing all students.
  • Allow and encourage students to express the benefit of a lesson using the account of their own life stories.
  • Bring guest speakers of differing cultures into the classroom.

 All these are to reduce gaps caused by cultural and linguistical diversity. It develops and builds a closer relationship between educators and students. It also enables more group work which helps students to exercise their language skills in a more personal, less unwelcoming classroom.

These are ways of validating students’ cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

  • By designing the walls with images, posters, patterns, pictures, or any form of visual description that remind a student of their interests, as well as ethnic or racial images.
  • By displaying the work of a student to extol the learning efforts and achievements of the student regardless of their culture or linguistic background.
  • By using examples and analogies from a student’s life in your teaching. This can be achieved during lessons through math application problems, language sentences, application of spelling words, or when portraying a concept.
  • By putting in school libraries books that have pictorial representations of people that look like the student and also those that portray experiences of the student’s life.
  • By illustrating all types of ethnic and cultural literature in the classroom during lessons like comprehension skills, inferential thinking, reading skills, and others to deepen the acceptance of diverse linguistics.
  • By relating everyday maths problems to not just a particular cultural background in the classroom, such as economics, employment, and consumer habits.
  • By teaching to the different cognitive styles, linguistic backgrounds, and interests of our students and not restricting the teaching methods to your learning style and cultural viewpoints as the teacher.
  • By urging and engaging students to embrace and celebrate one another’s cultures in the classroom. By such inclusive approach to the culture of others, we enable and every student to accept and pride in his/her own culture.

In conclusion

Validating a student’s cultural and linguistic backgrounds is paramount in the learning environment because every student comes with a different set of behaviors, beliefs, and physical characteristics that makes the students unique and this uniqueness gives every individual that special essence of one’s being.

This boils down to the person’s self-image which accounts for their level of self-esteem. When we acknowledge a student’s culture we are trying to show them how we accept and hold in esteem, who the student is, as well as the student’s cultural life which in return contributes to the academic success of the student.

Helping students to express their opinions, feelings, beliefs, and values during classes is a great way of affirming the student’s place in the classroom and preventing racial discrimination. In turn, this gives students self-confidence and self-concept, it also helps the teacher-student relationship, and increases a student’s cultural pride, all of which help a student to focus and succeed in their studies.