Technology has had a transformative impact on learning opportunities worldwide. As this pattern is expected to continue in the coming years, there are many implications for the future of education that we ask the G20 to consider.
In an increasingly interconnected world, the role of language in facilitating cross-border diplomacy and trade has long been realised. But the prospects of linguistic diversity in education are scarcely researched, and much less actively pursued. At Qatar Foundation (QF), we believe that stakeholders in the field of education have much to learn about the benefits of multilingual education.
There is a significant difference between teaching more than one language and teaching in more than one language. Globally, it is commonplace to educate children in one language. In our experience, such an approach fails to unleash the full potential of every learner. Research has increasingly shown how languages fundamentally shape our thoughts and perspectives; each gives its speakers a different frame of reference with which they extract meaning and understand the world.
To learn a language as a translation of another fails to encapsulate its disparate essence; instead, these ‘second languages’ become truly secondary, and never take form outside of the first language’s structure of thought. These languages may have no life of their own in a learner’s mind, and therefore lose the opportunity to imbue learners with all the perspectives they have to offer.
Succeeding in today’s globalised world, where multilingual speakers are beginning to outnumber monolingual speakers, requires more than linguistic proficiency in a foreign language. It requires the ability to think in that language and develop interpersonal relations with communities who speak it.
At QF, we are introducing world-class multilingual curricula, and creating multicultural spaces where students and staff from more than 100 nationalities learn from each other’s differences. Such an environment instils different systems of thought in students and enhances their cognitive development.
In light of such insights, we invite the G20 to explore how multilingual learning is enabling students to be informed and engaged interlocutors in an increasingly interconnected world.