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How to achieve the best outcomes in bilingual education

With this years’ National Literacy and Numeracy tests for primary school children aged 6-14 across Wales just about complete, experts will be discussing the best way to educate children in a bilingual setting at a major international conference on Bilingualism in Education and will be making recommendations on how to ensure that the highest standards are achieved by children in all of their languages.

Bangor University is hosting the International Conference on Bilingualism in Education June 10th – 12th 2016.  This event, sponsored by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, draws together researchers and practitioners from a range of countries to discuss developments and best practice in bilingualism in education. 

Recent research by staff at Bangor University has shown that there is complicated relationship between bilingualism and a range of factors such as age and language proficiency, and that bilingualism could offer advantages in a range of areas, particularly in terms of cognitive performance in old age.  Bilingualism in education could be a key area for development to ensure these advantages are available to as many as possible. 

A key area of discussion centres on the use of translanguaging, or using two languages in the classroom while sharing new information or ideas. This means that children may learn about or discuss a subject in one language and write about it in another. It is a way to both strengthening both languages and deepen understanding of the new subject. The term (trawsieithu) was coined by Cen Williams at Bangor University and is now widely adopted as a term and an educational practice around the globe.

The conference is fortunate enough to be able to celebrate the lifetime work of Prof. Colin Baker in this field and will welcome Prof. Ofelia García, a leading adacemic and author on the subject to the inaugural Bangor Advancing Knowledge in Education Research (or BAKER) lecture.  This event will both celebrate the work of one of the School of Education’s best-known experts and leading authority on translanguaging and look to the future of research in the field. 

“This is the first time an event of this size celebrating Bangor University’s international reputation as a leader in bilingual education has been hosted right in the heart of one of the world’s most successful bilingual education providers. The involvement of more than one language of instruction within a given educational programme is a growing issue in many schools throughout the world, and the breadth and quality of the research presented at the conference attest to the global interest in this field of study,” said Prof. Enlli Thomas, Head of the School of Education.

This conference also draws together research from key fields that investigate people’s attitudes to bilingualism in a range of contexts and how this affects the use of languages, the need to actively offer language choices when providing care, best bilingual teaching practices, the influence of family and friends on language use and the resources available for teaching bilingually. 

Publication date: 31 May 2016