Learning About Communities: School Language Surveys

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Language surveys are a great way to learn more about the language profiles of students and their families so that schools can further strengthen their commitment to intercultural awareness and developing multilingualism. Using the results, a comprehensive language profile of a school community can be made, which provides detailed information on the languages used by students and their families, as well as an overview of the beliefs and attitudes of parents towards multilingualism and language learning.

International organisations, including UNESCO, OECD and the IBO, have recognised that multilingualism is on the rise, and are prioritising their investigations into linguistic diversity across the globe. Likewise, the Institute of Multilingualism and the Federal Delegate for Plurilingualism are promoting the benefits of multilingualism in Switzerland. Graddol (2006) suggests that demographic change significantly impacts how languages develop. The manner in which institutions respond to linguistic evolution determines the extent to which linguistic resources are utilised for the benefit of society.

I believe that our conception of identity, both as individuals and members of groups, is in a perpetual state of flux in spite of our best efforts to anchor ourselves in time and place (what ontologists describe as a constant ‘state of becoming’). It is important to note that globally-mobile communities, such as international schools, have complex and shifting cultural and linguistic landscapes, and are never fixed in their identity; hence, the answer to ‘who we are’ as a community will always be fluid and ever-changing.

Language survey results show just how diverse communities are and how international students develop a natural and authentic global awareness through their inclusion in, and membership of, such a linguistically diverse communities.


Council of Europe Language Policy Portal. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2018, from https://www.coe.int/en/web/language-policy/home

IBO (2014) Language and Learning in IB Programmes. Cardiff: IBO.

Institute of Multilingualism. (n.d.). Retrieved November 4, 2018, from http://www.institut-plurilinguisme.ch/enOECD (2018), The Resilience of Students with an Immigrant Background: Factors that Shape Well-being. OECD Reviews of Migrant Education, OECD Publishing, Paris.

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