Promote the alternation of languages
By Hebe Adventures

Promote linguistic alternation

The teaching of “so-called non-linguistic disciplines” within the framework of the bilingual sections has its specificities. It calls for the creation of a didactics of its own and which notably involves linguistic alternation.

We quickly understood that we could not model the teaching of French as a foreign language or second language on that of French mother tongue as it is practiced in France. In the same way, the merits of specific didactic strategies for the teaching of non-linguistic subjects in the “bilingual sections” will be accepted.

Bilingual teaching cannot be reduced to the sum of two monolingual teachings, which would cause a large part of the linguistic benefits to be lost and all of the disciplinary cultural and cognitive benefits. Teaching is truly bilingual if it is approached in two languages for all subjects and a priori at all times.

From the outset, pedagogical practices that systematically translate into language 2 the programs and contents of language 1 will be eliminated: because "doing" in language 2 the history, biology or chemistry lessons of the textbooks of language 1 is at best surreal, contrived and demotivating, at worst daunting and dangerous.

National school speeches are indeed always very “culturalised”, and therefore often untranslatable, even if it is necessary for pupils to know them. On the other hand, DdNL teachers, except in special cases, may not have a sufficient mastery of language 2 to continuously support a speech in a foreign language – it is not their job, and this would certainly have negative effects on learning the discipline.

In concrete terms, when one is a teacher of a discipline, it seems that it is natural and appropriate to place the teaching of one's discipline as the primary objective, and therefore to attach oneself, via bilingual teaching, to seeking as a priority improve the teaching/learning of the concepts of its subject, in order, secondly, to aim for linguistic benefits and to promote, in fine, cultural openings. It is when one is clear about the objectives targeted and their hierarchy that one can begin to identify and define specific didactics, to trace the contours of a new profession, or more precisely of a specialization within the traditional profession of a teacher of a discipline.

Build a bilingual course

The central idea supported here is that the teacher in the bilingual section must strive to build a new, original, singular, bilingual course, which links the programs and contents of the language 1 textbooks with those of language 2, which crosses methodologies and puts into practice linguistic alternation: these serve both as original ways of expressing concepts and a culture and, moreover, as a means of communicating them. This strategy targets both disciplinary objectives, but also linguistic and cultural ones.

Linking methodologies

Comparing the methodologies used in the respective textbooks of each of the two languages is no less useful and instructive: one can observe the often very different ways of approaching disciplinary notions and concepts, sometimes favoring inductive, constructivist logics, centered on observations, analyzes of documents, experiments, surveys, sometimes more pragmatic, behaviorist approaches, more centered on memory and encyclopaedia... But here again, these analyzes cannot be improvised and must be carried out during training .

We can distinguish three types of linguistic alternation in interrelation

– a macro-alternance, of a structural nature, which concerns the general programming of the courses;

– sequential alternation, a kind of meso-alternation, undoubtedly the trickiest to master, which takes place throughout the didactic unit;

– micro-alternation, which refers to short passages from one language to another. The first and third alternation have often been described (Cavalli 2007, Causa 2007). The second, on the contrary, which relates to what actually happens during the course, in daily practice, has received little comment because it is difficult to master and requires training. Everyone does what they can in their class, in a somewhat empirical way: it's often very effective, but sometimes less so; we are there in the do-it-yourself, the experimental trial and error.

The macro-alternation

Programmed, planned in advance, the macro-alternance consists in choosing, in a bilingual education, the subjects, the themes which will be mainly treated in language 1 or in language 2. Mainly, in dominant, but not entirely, not exclusively. This is the difference with immersion, with courses entirely conducted in language 1 or language 2, as is often the case.

The criteria for distributing the programs can be of a conceptual or methodological order, depending on the supposed difficulty of the subject to be treated, or the documentary resources available. But there is always this idea that the macro-alternance must be planned in advance, with all that this implies in terms of preparations and possible collaborations with other colleagues, in particular the language 2 teacher.

The micro-alternation

During the course taught and structured mainly in one of the two languages, the other language will occasionally be used. As opposed to macro-alternation, which is planned and structural, micro-alternation is non-programmable and temporary. It is a natural phenomenon, which must be mastered and can take several forms: we will distinguish in particular a micro-alternation of reformulation, a micro-alternation of the metalinguistic type and finally a micro-alternation in the interactions, intended to maintain the essential communication.

The central work of exposition and treatment of the theme

A linguistic alternation between two languages is desirable for the texts, but also for graphics, maps, diagrams or statistics, by presenting and working of course on each document in its original language, without translating it.

If the work requires observations, experiments, measurements, we will also try to conduct them in one or the other language, but without having the concern to “account” anything, to respect illusory parities. The idea here is to look for complementarities, clarifications, openings, different entries likely to help learning. We can create a double lexicon of specific terms, a sort of directory of key words (for example, in the form of a box in the course).

The intermediate conclusions, summaries and final syntheses, theorems, laws, rules and axioms, must be formulated in both languages, orally and in writing, with the systematic help of the textbooks used in L1 and L2. The language forms are indeed often different in the two languages and far from literal translations. It is useful to work and retain both formulations in order to promote memorization and conceptualization.

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