Homolingual and HeterolingualRegarding her english learning experience, Susana Daniec, an advanced english speaker and member of a class of homolingual english learners, explains:
I learned english at a British institute, and the teacher only spoke english,
and did not allow students to speak their original languages. If you want the students to learn good english, you should only use english. Otherwise, we
will keep using the spanish
because we all understand it... (Daniec 2012)
Susana was compelled to share her experience because, within two weeks of the class’ commencement, the instructor –who had encouraged students to use their first language, spanish, as a scaffold for learning english-- had problems convincing struggling students to make earnest efforts to speak and think in english. Had this class been composed of students from heterolingual backgrounds, Susana and her instructor, probably, would not have had this conversation, as heterolingual and homolingual classrooms are dissimilarly composed, and require the implementation of some dissimilar protocols.
In the homolingual english language learning classroom, because students share a home language, they are likely to have the same difficulties, and can explain difficult concepts to each other, but may take to communicating in their home language, incessantly. While using the home language to deconstruct a difficult concept is effective, this practice makes it too easy for students to rely, habitually, on the usage of their home languages, and they fail to take their english learning as seriously as is necessary to master the new language. Additionally, as trends, homolingual classes are offered in the learners’ home country, or within a minority enclave of a foreign country. In either scenario, the load of learning english, usually, is taken-on as an imposition instead of a preference, so feebly motivated students may appear more prevalently than they would in the heterolingual classroom environment.
Conversely, students enrolled in english courses populated by speakers of different languages, or heterolingual courses, are apt to take their english studies more seriously, as –without walking the english communication bridge— effectively communicating with other students and the teacher is nearly impossible. In the absence of a crutch, an english language learner’s home language, english becomes the language upon which the students must rely. Students in these courses are found, more commonly, in countries wherein english is the lingua franca because people from different linguistic backgrounds find themselves needing to learn a dominant language in order to function. Learning to speak english in an english-speaking country is ostensibly more effective because students are constantly surrounded by the language -- inside and outside the classroom. Also, students in these environments are usually more motivated to learn, as they usually choose to travel and learn english, as opposed to having the decision imposed upon them.
While Susana’s instructor’s fervent encouragement of students to communicate in english has resulted in an increased show of students’ english communication efforts, implementing the following personal, contractual obligations may maximize her students’ efforts to learn the new language:
*Spending x amount of time, daily, speaking, listening, reading, and/or writing in english;
*Acknowledging and appreciating their time as second language students, and making every effort to communicate in english;
*english-speaking, by other stakeholders, when they walk into the classroom.
With hope, these strategies will help Susana’s homolingual classmates gain the skills, confidence, and competence necessary to function as smoothly as they would if they were learning in a heterolingual environment.