Language and Education Network - Research Seminar - Karen Forbes (University of Cambridge)

Developing a multilingual identity in the languages classroom: from theory to practice

A Graduate School of Education research event
Date7 June 2021
Time17:00 to 18:30

Karen Forbes (University of Cambridge)

Developing a multilingual identity in the languages classroom: from theory to practice

It is natural to assume the languages classroom to be a key site for the construction of learners’ linguistic and multilingual identities. Yet, an underlying assumption exists that this will occur tacitly, without the teacher drawing explicit attention to such processes, or raising awareness about the ways in which the various languages in a learner’s repertoire relate to them personally. Our position, therefore, is that a new dimension of languages pedagogy is necessary in order to help learners to fully understand their own and others’ linguistic repertoires (whether learned in school, at home or in the community) and so to recognise their agency in being able to claim a multilingual identity.

In this talk I will draw on data from the Education strand of the four-year AHRC-funded MEITS project (Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies) which sought to investigate how multilingualism, and the extent to which one identifies as multilingual, influences additional language learning in schools. I will start by providing a brief overview of the rationale behind and development of a package of pedagogical materials underpinned by participative multilingual identity education (see In order to investigate the effect of such activities on the development of students’ multilingual identity, these resources then formed the basis of an intervention implemented by modern languages teachers (of French, German and Spanish) in four secondary schools in England over the course of an academic year. I will share some of the key findings from the questionnaire data which highlight the importance of the ‘identity’ element of the resources (i.e. actively promoting reflexivity) and will suggest some potential implications for engagement and attainment more broadly.


ProviderGraduate School of Education
Intended audienceAcademic staff and students
Registration informationContact event organiser for event link
OrganizerPhil Durrant

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