Playing with Language in Multilingual Classrooms: From “Shoes” to “Sjoes”

Reference work entry


Multilingualism is the norm in the world, and in places that are considered more monolingual, multilingualism is an increasing fact and ever more present in the classroom. Instead of embracing this reality, schools are often pushing monolingual policies that focus on acquisition of the school language plus a couple of high-status foreign languages, neglecting at the same time the less familiar home languages. It is vital for the pupils’ identities and well-being that the languages they speak outside the classroom are given a place within the walls of the school. For all pupils, multilingualism is important: with internationalism on the rise speaking multiple languages is an all-important skill to possess. SJOES – a Dutch respelling of the English word shoes – presents ways in which the wealth of language knowledge present, or even absent, in the classroom can be systematically put into practice. The multilingual journey’s starting point is collecting and comparing: languages, words, sounds, and writing systems. What is the word for shoe in your language, in the languages you know or have been in contact with? The journey leads then to sharing and understanding via doing contests and role-play, dancing and art-making, and eventually a performance for schoolmates, parents, and people living in the neighborhood.


Multilingualism Home languages in primary education Translanguaging and sharing grammars Identity building Inclusiveness and social cohesion Inquiry-based learning 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Studio TaalwetenschapAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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