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Plurilingual literacy practices at school and in teacher education

von Silvia Melo-Pfeifer (Band-Herausgeber:in) Christian Helmchen (Band-Herausgeber:in)
©2018 Sammelband 240 Seiten


This book offers a variety of theoretical and empirical foundations regarding the development of plurilingual literacy practices in primary school contexts around Europe. It presents a range of concepts related to multilingual education and multilingual teacher education, such as pluriliteracy, identity, the pluralistic approaches (namely intercomprehension and «éveil aux langues») and translanguaging in pedagogy. From an empirical perspective, the authors present and discuss suggestions regarding the integration of multilingual activities in the classroom and in teaching education programs.


  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Special acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Multilingual literacy practices at school and in teacher education (Christian Helmchen / Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer)
  • Part one: Multilingual literacy practices at school
  • Doing plurilingualism at school: key concepts and perspectives (Júlia Llompart / Luci Nussbaum)
  • Princípios orientadores para o desenvolvimento da competência plurilingue e intercultural no âmbito de uma inserção curricular (Ana Raquel Simões / Mónica Lourenço / Susana Pinto / Marta Santos)
  • La construcción de la identidad: las historias de vida lingüística (Montserrat Fons / Ana Raquel Simões / Ana Isabel Andrade)
  • Reading in multilingual environments (Emilee Moore / Juli Palou Sangrà)
  • La multiculturalitat en els projectes de treball: les catifes viatgeres (Claudia Vallejo Rubinstein / Artur Noguerol Rodrigo)
  • Part two: Multilingual literacy practices in teacher education
  • „Georgios, ja bei dem merkt man es, dass er Grieche ist…“ – Zur Wirkung kultureller Stereotype im multikulturellen Klassenzimmer (Christian Helmchen)
  • Educación plurilingüe e intercultural – propuestas para la formación inicial y continua de profesores (Salvador Rodríguez Almendros / Marleny Colmenares González / Rosa Maria Faneca / Filomena Martins / Carlota Tomaz)
  • La integración curricular de la IC en los centros educativos: ¿proyecto futurible y sostenible? Un estudio comparativo Cataluña-Hamburgo (Encarnación Carrasco Perea / Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer)
  • La evaluación en el proyecto colaborativo Koinos (Olga Esteve / Pere Grané)
  • Postface : Le présent recueil vu au travers de deux grilles de lecture empruntées aux approches plurielles des langues et des cultures (Michel Candelier)
  • Bio Notes

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Special acknowledgements

We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincerest thanks to the schools and especially all teachers involved in the Koinos project.

2015–2016 (pilot phase)

Escola Baró de Viver (Barcelona, Spain)

Montserrat Piñol Amorós

Escola Coves d’en Cimany (Barcelona, Spain)

Mª José de la Rocha Morales

Escola Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)

Yolanda Becerra García

Antonio París Ibars


Centro Escolar Chave (EB1 da Chave) – Agrupamento de Escolas da Gafanha da Nazaré, Ílhavo (Aveiro, Portugal)

Paula Reis

Centro Escolar Santa Maria Manuela – Agrupamento de Escolas da Gafanha da Nazaré, Ílhavo (Aveiro, Portugal)

Lurdes Pereira

Centro Escolar de Montemor-o-Velho – Agrupamento de Escolas de Montemor-o-Velho (Coimbra, Portugal)

Ana Pinto

Escola Baró de Viver (Barcelona, Spain)

Montserrat Piñol Amorós

Escola Mossèn Jacint Verdaguer (Barcelona, Spain)

Bruno Cabanellas Guiscafré

Victoria Eugenia Fraile Rubio

Escola Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)

Antonio París Ibars ← 7 | 8 →

Rudolf Roß Grundschule (Hamburg, Germany)

Ana Paula Gouveia Larkens

Maria João Freitas

Their continuous dedication not only helped Koinos to become a success but also is a valuable contribution to the social cohesion of their respective communities.

The Koinos-Team and authors of this book.

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Christian Helmchen & Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer

Introduction: Multilingual literacy practices at school and in teacher education

1. Conceptual framework and guiding principles

“Multilingualism” has been a pervasive concept in the last few decades in the fields of language and teacher education, influencing practice, discourses and ideologies. It provides a renewed approach to conceive and implement language teaching and learning at school, against the common monolingual mindset and a monolingual bias in language teaching, learning and evaluating and in teacher education (monolingual ideologies and practices being privileged in multilingual scenarios, like the classroom itself). This pervasiveness is not exempt of problems, such as the current fuzziness around its definition and the co-occurrence of terms with similar connotations, like “plurilingualism” or “linguistic diversity” (Jessner & Kramsch, 2015; Marschal & Moore, 2016). A recurrent trend attempts to distinguish between societal and individual multilingualism, the second also known under the term plurilingualism, but it is a distinction that is far from being widely used. Sometimes, multilingualism is also used as a synonym of bilingualism. In this book, the term can cover societal and individual issues related to the use, teaching and learning of more than one language or/and variety. The authors have been charged with explaining their own use, as the preference for one or another term also sometimes implies an epistemological compliance and a linguistic tradition (multilingual is more frequent in Anglophone literature and plurilingual in Francophone research, for example). In our introduction, we will espouse the distinction between societal and individual multilingualism and, within individual multilingualism, we will distinguish between biographical and institutionally-acquired multilingualism, the first referring to multilingualism developed outside of school (for example, as a consequence of migration histories) and the second denominating multilingualism fostered through school curricula and language policies1 (nurtured by foreign language learning). ← 9 | 10 →

Another term that has been widely used in language education is that of “literacy”, in the plural and singular forms, with prefixes like “multi” or “pluri”, or associated to elements such as “multiple”, “bilingual”, “multilingual” or “plurilingual”. Hence, a first observation which can be made with regards to terminology is that the concurrence between the prefixes “pluri” and “multi” referred to in the first paragraph, is common in other domains. A second is the fact that using literacy in the singular or the plural form induces different understandings of the phenomena being described, e.g., in this book, the use of “multilingual literacy”: is “literacy” a sum of knowledge, abilities and practices in one language? Is it the addition of literacies in several languages? Are these literacies in several languages interconnected? In what is “multilingual literacy” more than the sum of single language literacies? What distinguishes “multilingual literacy” from “individual multilingualism”, “plurilingualism” or “individual multilingual competence” (Melo & Santos, 2008)? Or is multilingual literacy just related to reading and writing in several languages in a more traditional account of the concept “literacy” (Barton, 2007)?

Even though the authors diverge on the definitions, a commonality emerges from different accounts of the concept: literacy is always connected to practice; literacy has an empirical and practical nature and cannot be detached from the contexts in which it is deployed and developed. From this perspective, literacy is indexed and highly situated: it depends on individuals, on affordances, on “ingredients of context”, on objects under examination (linguistic literacy, mathematical literacy, scientific literacy, and so on). Thus, literacy cannot be considered in a void. In the field of “multilingual literacy” (we prefer the singular form because we see linguistic competences and linguistic repertoires as highly connected and interdependent), “literacy” is subject to the practices being developed under certain circumstances, in determined contexts, and to achieve certain goals. That is why we have preferred to dedicate this book to “practice” related to the use, teaching and learning of languages, giving space to the description of the related contexts. As Stavans and Hoffmann define it, “literacy practices” is an expression used “to emphasise that reading and writing are activities that take place in specific social and cultural contexts. Such practices are of a social nature and are used with children as a means of socialization” (2015: 268).

This book is also an account of work developed in the scope of an Erasmus-Plus Project: Koinos – Portfolio of multilingual literacy practices2 ( ← 10 | 11 → In order to promote mobility and intercultural understanding, multilingualism among its citizens is a primary objective of the European Union’s language policy. Koinos was not only set up to promote linguistic and cultural diversity in schools, for the benefit of children, their families, and thereby society as a whole: it incorporates these elements in its very root, bringing together people with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds who worked together on a common goal. The project embraces two domains, aiming at developing multilingual literacy practices: one relates to practice at school and the other relates to language teacher education. Both these domains are interdependent and it is commonly accepted that changes in teacher education must occur to overcome the still common “monolingual habitus” (Gogolin, 1994) in the school system.

Related to the first of those dimensions, and in the words of Stavans & Hoffmann,

For this reason, several of the authors in this book engage in conceptual and empirical discussions on how the school can overcome those ideological and practical barriers to multiculturalism, multilingualism, and multilingual literacy practice in the classroom. Some of those barriers are known under the concept “monolingualising ideologies” (Heller, 1995), which are manifest in monolingual and monoglossic school system predispositions, working cultures and teaching artefacts currently unable to recognize, value and mobilize multilingual repertoires. The pervasive status of those ideologies potentially leads to the monolingualisation of the multilingual student. Some suggestions to challenge them are put forth, for example, in the discussion of concepts such as “translanguaging” and “intercomprehension” as pedagogical resources in the multilingual classroom.

The second dimension – teacher training – is another important strand in envisaging the implementation of multilingual teaching practice and curricular changes aiming at integrating multilingual strategies as cognitive and affective strategies de facto. As recognized by Stavans & Hoffmann, “teachers can easily underestimate the complexities of the multilingual classroom; even if they are aware of them, they may not always know best how to exploit the potential of plurilingual students” (2015: 229). Consequently, teacher education aiming at a ← 11 | 12 → prospective full integration of multilingualism as a means and goal of the learning process must go beyond raising awareness of diversity in the classroom and engage with reflexive practices, anchored in the specific context and its (im)possibilities. Thus, the authors of this book provide the reader with an array of principles and empirical suggestions for agents, curricula and institutions of teacher education.

As can be seen throughout the book, the discussions on both dimensions emphasise, at least, three cross-cutting aspects. Indeed, the authors agree that practice in the classroom and in teacher education should be:

2. Contents of the book

This book is divided into two parts: “Multilingual literacy practices at school” (five chapters) and “Multilingual literacy practices in teacher education” (four chapters). With the intention of reflecting the project’s plurilingual spirit as well as the plurilingual environment that has long been a European reality, the chapters are presented in the different languages of the project members, i.e. Catalan, English, German, Portuguese and Spanish (and French, considering the Postface by Michel Candelier). In other words, the multilingual nature of the book is intended to be consistent with the multilingual communicative practices between their authors throughout the development of the Koinos project and with the theme of the book itself. It should be stated that this book contains insights into the Koinos project as well as its intellectual products and results, but it also offers a view beyond. ← 12 | 13 →

2.1 Part one: Multilingual literacy practices at school

Chapter one, “Doing plurilingualism at school: key concepts and perspectives”, by Júlia Llompart and Luci Nussbaum, presents some key concepts relevant to teaching foreign languages and considering students’ linguistic backgrounds and linguistic practices inside and outside the classroom. Sociolinguistic notions of multilingualism are examined with regard to their impact on bi/plurilingual education programs.

Ana Raquel Simões, Mónica Lourenço, Susana Pinto and Marta Santos reflect on “Princípios orientadores para o desenvolvimento da competência plurilingue e intercultural no âmbito de uma inserção curricular”. More precisely, this chapter discusses some guiding principles and pedagogical proposals for the curricular development of plurilingual and intercultural competences in the context of European language policy recommendations towards a plurilingual and intercultural education that prepares citizens to respect linguistic and cultural diversity.


ISBN (Hardcover)
2018 (Oktober)
Literacy Plurilingual literacy practices Pluralistic approaches to languages and cultures Teacher education Plurilingual and intercultural competence Dealing with linguistic and cultural diversity in the classroom
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2018. 239 pp., 14 fig. b/w, 5 tables, 2 graphs

Biographische Angaben

Silvia Melo-Pfeifer (Band-Herausgeber:in) Christian Helmchen (Band-Herausgeber:in)

Christian Helmchen studied English, Spanish and pedagogy. He worked as a lecturer for German as a foreign language at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México before becoming a lecturer and research assistant in the Department of Education at the University of Hamburg (Germany). Sílvia Melo-Pfeifer studied French and Portuguese Teacher Education at the University of Aveiro (Portugal). She is Associate Professor in the Department of Education at the University of Hamburg (Germany).


Titel: Plurilingual literacy practices at school and in teacher education
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242 Seiten