The world is changing rapidly and this change is brought about by the changes among the people themselves as influenced by the varying cultures from which these people are exposed to. Migration, which allowed the exchange of cultures, even heightened the differences in people in almost all existing communities all over the world. It is almost impossible now to find a single community where there is oneness in culture. In almost every corner of the world, there exist various differences, in the way people perceive and value things, and the way people manifest their own attitudes and beliefs. All these changes are mere results of the differences in cultures among all the people.
According to Rosado, C. (2009), not only do people and cultures change but also language. Every year, hundreds or even thousands of new words are added into the dictionary in order to name and define a certain object, person or situation that never existed before. As the "new world" is slowly taking the place of the "old world", people are seeing more new things which need to be defined depending on the new context where the new thing took place. Hence, the direct outcome of this is the change in language.
Migration was also one of the most influential factors why these changes in language took place. According to Morefield, J. (1996), in his article entitled "Recreating Schools for all Children", the American school system was clearly being shaped by various cultural changes that took place in the past years. Various influences such as the migration of Northern Europeans centuries back reflected a different value system that exists in American educational institutions until today such as the culture of "competition" and "individualism". Moreover, the belief that the children may choose whether or not to take education was also a product of this European cultural influence which until today still manifests itself in the views of many American youth.
Rosado, C. (2009) estimates that by year 2050, almost half of the American population will already be composed of peoples of different skin colors. The assumption is by that time, no dominant skin color will be seen in the population as the people will already be mixed. A positive implication of this is that people will be more equal as there will no longer be a single race or group of people who will hold the prestige and power. Nevertheless, this also implies many more changes taking place and more differences highlighted among the people.
But aside from migration, globalization also played a vital role in these various cultural changes taking place in each corner of the world. According to Hjarvard, S. (2000), English has already become the principal language of globalization over the past two or three decades. In the global network for instance, the use of English was more predominant than any other language forcing people from all over the world to study and adopt this language when dealing internationally. In the spread of technology, the English language was used primarily as a means to communicate technicalities and where there are business transactions, whether written or oral, English was most often and widely used by the people.
Language is indeed a vital part of culture that can either unite or divide people, without it communication cannot take place. That is why given that the English language is the principal language being used today worldwide, there is a need to train students on how to easily and effectively learn this language with the given proper respect to their own individual cultures.
Objectives/Purpose of the Research
The central focus of this study on "Applying the Principles of Multiculturalism in aid of Students Learning the English Language" is all about crafting the easiest and most effective strategies of helping students learn the English language. As it is to many foreign or migrant students, learning English is one of the most difficult tasks to do. English has a totally different system of writing and speaking which is vital for the students to learn in order to manage the intimidation and cultural adjustments that they often experience in school.
In applying the principle of multiculturalism, this research study aims to provide the students the best and most effective means of coping and learning the English language which is globally-considered a principal language that every young student needs to learn.
Specifically, the aims of this research study will be to achieve the following objectives:
To state the importance of learning the English language and identify the different cultural challenges and issues that teachers often face with students who are non-English speakers
To define what multiculturalism means as well as present the importance of multicultural education
To identify the different principles of multiculturalism and present how these principles can help facilitate an easier and more effective means of teaching English to students
Questions under Investigation
Since the main aim of this study is to provide the easiest and most effective means of teaching the English language to students, specifically to migrants and students coming from a totally different background who are non-English speakers, the researcher will be utilizing the different multiculturalism principles in order to devise the easiest and most effective strategy of teaching English to students.
In line with this, the research study will have to identify the different research questions that need to be answered and addressed as the study progresses. Specifically, three questions need to be investigated in this research study, which are central in order to achieve the aims stated above. The three research questions under investigation are the following:
How important is the learning of the English Language and why do students need to study it? How do students cope with learning this language in school?
What are the different cultural challenges and issues that teachers often face with students who are non-English speakers? What specific issues or dilemma does this bring in inside the classroom and how does this affect the esteem of the student learning the language?
What is multiculturalism and how important is the infusion or incorporation of multicultural education in the school curriculum?
What are the different principles of multiculturalism and how do these principles help facilitate an easier and more effective means of teaching English to students?
Presentation of Findings (From the Annotated Bibliography)
The Importance of Learning English
According to Hjarvard, S. (2000), English is undeniably the language of globalization. It occupies a principal position among all the other languages in the world whether it be Spanish or French or any other strong and dominant languages in the world. Everywhere around the world, English is the most popular, most widely-used language which is often used to communicate to everyone around the globe. With the use of this language, it is like the world merely shares one culture as people of all races recognize and use this language to communicate, both orally or written, from people across national borders. In terms of communicating via the internet and computers as well as in naming technical terms, English is the primary language being used. In social, political, economic and scientific contexts, the use of the English language is also vital as most people from different parts of the world know and understand this language.
In many important occasions, the use of the English language serves as a bridge linking various cross cultural societies with one another. Furthermore, it enriches the lives of people allowing them to make friends, conduct business transactions, and explore relationships from people in the opposite ends of the earth (Hjarvard, S., 2000).
Given these many benefits and distinct advantages of learning the English language, it is therefore beneficial for young students to learn this language as it will give them a competitive edge in terms of dealing and communicating with people from all over the world. Furthermore, the knowledge of the English language provides a common understanding among young students as most texts are written in the English language and so the teacher can easily facilitate the teaching and learning process inside the classroom if all students share the same language. One common challenge for teachers however is enriching the experiences of students while utilizing the opportunities of multiculturalism and meeting the needs of each student. This is what adds to the dilemma of teachers as teaching in itself is already quite a challenging profession (Dunn, B. & Adkins, M.A., 2003).
Since in a classroom environment, varieties of cultures are involved, there is a need for the teacher to have a unique approach to every problem a student encounters. The teacher needs to deal with every student on a personal level, carefully assessing the cultural background, language and belief system of the student in order to effectively address the student's needs. Conversations appropriately conducted are also vital in the settling of cultural issues or dilemma that a student is facing. Furthermore, the English literacy level of every student varies from one person to another that is why the teacher is required to be extra cautious and responsive of these student needs (Smith, J., 2010).
B. Multicultural Education and its Importance
According to Rosado, C. (2009), the introduction of multiculturalism is a product of the many cultural changes that occurred in a society. It is defined as a system of behaviors and beliefs that respects and recognizes, values and acknowledges and enables and encourages the cultural differences present in a particular community or society. Moreover, multiculturalism empowers the different beliefs, attitudes and practices of people coming from various cultural backgrounds. It widely embraces cultural differences and sees the beauty in it.
According to Rosado, C. (2009), multiculturalism is characterized by four main principles which are: 1.) the existence of heterogeneity in the classroom, 2.) sensitivity and valuing cultural differences in the class, 3.) managing the diversity by acknowledging the unique contributions of each student in the class and creating a culturally friendly and 4.) positive ambiance which empowers the student in each class.
According to Aldridge, J. Calhoun, C. & Aman, R. (2000), one common misconception of teachers in the classroom set up is treating all the students as having come from the same types of cultures. This is especially not true and in fact is often the cause of disunity and lack of respect among students since their differences are not recognized. This also results into the fact that many novice teachers easily quit their professions because they are not used to embracing the differences among students (Abbate-Vaughn, J., 2006).
Nevertheless according to Ndura, E. (2006), when cultural differences are acknowledged by the teachers themselves, it greatly improves the classroom relationships of teachers and students resulting into a higher level of unity, respect and encouragement among them. Furthermore, the infusion of multicultural education in the students' curricula also plays a vital role in the management of this diversity within the classroom but in order to properly exercise this, there is clearly a need to expose the unfamiliarity and common misconceptions of many teachers regarding multiculturalism and diversity (Parameswaran, G., 2007).
But this is not to say however that multicultural education must be an independent subject itself being taught by teachers, subtle and less obvious ways of incorporating this subject to the curriculum works more effectively such as for instance, the use of multicultural literature which promote more comfortable cultural interactions among young students through literary works Steiner, S. F. et al. (2008). The teachers must however be also sensitive and wary about their roles of guiding their students in terms of using multicultural literature in bridging the cultural gaps among their students as it can also result to negative consequences which the school must avoid (Lowery, R.M. & Burns D.S., 2007).
B. The Use of Multicultural Principles in Teaching English
It has been found out in the study conducted by Morefield, J. (1996) on "Recreating Schools for All Children" that the students effectively and easily learn when the principles of multiculturalism are applied in a classroom setting and also if multicultural education is subtly infused into the school's curriculum.
In the study he conducted, it showed that many students are encouraged, getting more above average grades when exposed to a learning environment that is nurturing and caring and places great esteem or value on the differences that exist among every individual. Compared to a normal classroom setting where the teachers are not as "culturally aware" and as "culturally responsive" as they should be, the students exposed in an environment that highly acknowledges and embraces diversity perform well than those exposed in a normal classroom environment (Morefield, J., 1996).
According to Rosado, C. (2009), what makes a school multi-cultural is more than the existence of young students coming from different cultural backgrounds, it is more on acknowledging their existence as well as recognizing where they have come from. It is also not defined with just merely recognizing them but also being extra-sensitive to their own individual cultural needs and being able to respond to those needs.
Furthermore, Rosado, C. (2009) asserts that when sensitivity is also sometimes not enough as acknowledgement of each person's contribution is also important as it empowers each student to perform well and better than expected. When this happens, the result is none other than a positive ambiance which characterizes a good and learning friendly environment wherein young students easily learn and achieve beyond their limits.
In the same way, these principles, when applied in the classroom set up of students learning English, will be able to easily and more effectively learn English far better than they have expected. Although applying these principles may be a challenging task to do, it is certainly doable and achievable. Teachers however need to be aware of their important functions in achieving this aim (Morefield, J.,1996).
Since teachers are considered leaders inside the classroom, they should be the ones to first learn and apply these principles. For instance, in applying these specific principles in a classroom full of students learning English, the teacher must be the first one to recognize and acknowledge the language barriers and cultural language differences among his or her students. He or she must adjust therefore the student curriculum based on the English competency level of all his/her students on the average. The teacher must never punish or put to shame any student who does not speak English well as it will automatically cause discrimination with that student in relation to the other students in class nor should the teacher show any form of prejudice. Second, the teacher must study the cultural backgrounds of his/her students in order to address their individual needs. He or she must never generalize them as thinking or adopting the same sets of beliefs and attitudes as it would further emphasize the differences among them. Third, amidst all the cultural differences, the teacher must be able to manage all the students, enabling those non-English speakers to bond with English speakers to increase their learning. Lastly, the teacher must be the initiator and creator of the positive and friendly ambiance inside the classrooms where mistakes in grammar and written tests are acknowledged and corrected in a respectful way that would not intimidate or put to shame the students learning the language (Morefield, J., 1996).
Application of Findings to Profession and Goals
The researcher of this study personally agrees to the qualitative inputs of the different authors who served as advocates of multiculturalism or multi-cultural education. In the profession that I practice and observe, particularly in the pre-school setting, the existence of diversity is very much predominant.
Personally, I love diversity as it allows me to learn and explore other cultural contexts and backgrounds which I wasn't aware of before. I value knowledge of various cultures as the more I learn, the more I get to respect and embrace our differences. In the pre-school setting for instance, I find it challenging to deal with every student as each of them are quite unique in their beliefs and attitudes which challenges me to think of ways to deal with the problem of each student.
Furthermore, upon knowing the challenges of being a teacher always exposed in a highly diverse setting, I was quite challenged to apply the principles of multiculturalism and see if the application of these principles indeed is beneficial in enhancing the relationships between teachers and students as well as facilitates an easier way of learning and teaching that benefits both the teachers and the students.