The Centre for Educational Excellence holds workshop to valorize SFU’s multilingual community

Participants discussed the myths surrounding multilingual students and appreciated the benefits of a diverse student body

By: Lubaba Mahmud, Staff Writer

The Centre for Educational Excellence hosted “Who Is SFU? A Conversation About Our Linguistic Diversity” on Friday, March 13. English as an Additional Language (EAL) Consultants Eilidh Singh and Amanda Wallace facilitated the workshop.

After a brief introduction and ice-breaker session, participants were asked to discuss the answers to questions like “What percentage of undergraduate students use EAL?” and “which faculty has the highest percentage of EAL graduate students?” in small groups. These questions were designed so that participants could get a better idea of SFU’s multilingual community. Some of the statistics shown include the following:

  • 30% of undergraduates speak English as an additional language
  • 15% of undergraduates speak no English at home
  • The Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS) has the highest percentage of EAL graduate students (80%). This is closely followed by Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology with 52% EAL students, Faculty of Science with 44% EAL students, and Beedie School of Business with 32% EAL students
  • EAL students mostly attend evening classes in Burnaby campus

The workshop also outlined some myths about multilingual students. These included allegations that EAL students slow down the pace of classes, that their work took much longer to read and grade, or that faculties require special training to teach them. Moreover, the group discussions touched upon racial stereotypes and the prevalent hierarchy of languages, which gives the notion that English is a superior language.

Participants were then encouraged to think about the benefits that multilingual learners can bring. There was a wide consensus that these students often bring creative ideas and personal experiences that enrich class discussions.

Lastly, attendees were asked to write a message about how they will continue to appreciate the multilingual nature of SFU on some postcards. These will be mailed back to the students in attendance after six weeks, so that the postcards can serve as a reminder of how diversity is an asset to the SFU community.

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