Danish research: bilingual students a benefit to their schools

‘Signs of Language’ project involved five multi-language classes from five schools in urban areas

Bilingual students can be an asset rather than a hindrance (photo: iStock) Bilingual students can be an asset rather than a hindrance (photo: iStock)
March 9th, 2016 6:30 pm| by Christian W
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A new Danish research project has revealed that bilingual students are actually a benefit to their schools if they are permitted to use their native languages during class.

The project, ‘Tegn på sprog’ (‘Signs of Language’), showed that if teachers incorporate the various languages of the students, it can improve subjects such as Danish for all the students in the class.

“It makes grammar a more exciting phenomenon,” Helle Pia Laursen, an associate professor at the Danish School of Education and head of the research project, told Videnskab.dk.


“Learning grammar can be a dull experience, but the moment that kids are told that in Turkish the imperative form must indicate whether one or more people are to jump, for example, then something happens in the classroom. And then the linguistic attention is strengthened.”

READ MORE: New digital tool lets Danish parents see the ethnic make-up of public schools

Embracing diversity
The project (here is an introduction to it in English) involved five multi-language classes from five schools in urban areas.

The students were followed from grade 1 to grade 7 and are all part of classes that have a significant degree of linguistic diversity among students and the adjacent community.

The project took place in co-operation with the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University, VIA University College, University College Nordjylland, University College Lillebælt, University College UCC and municipalities of Aarhus, Aalborg, Vejle, Odense and Copenhagen.

The findings come in the wake of the Ministry for Children, Education and Gender equality launching a new digital tool last month that gives the public access to key figures about public schools across the country, including the proportion of students with non-Danish ethnic backgrounds at a particular school.