Investigating Teachers’ and Language Learners’ use of Language in Public Primary Schools in Cyprus
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
The current research investigated the ways language was used by mainstream primary school teachers and language learners whose native language was other than the official language of instruction. The setting of the study was the island of Cyprus, where the mainstream population’s language, Standard Modern Greek, is taught as the educational first language to native speakers of the Greek Cypriot dialect. At the same time, Standard Modern Greek is taught as an additional language to non-native Greek speakers. The main aim of the study was the investigation of the teachers’ and language learners’ use of language in the multilingual schools, to provide information regarding the way participants managed to ‘get along’ socially and academically. Upon examination of this use, the existence of the sociolinguistic phenomenon of bidialectism (the coexistence of two varieties), presented a further complication. The investigation was set within a sociocultural framework, following a neo-Vygotskyan perspective. The investigation was approached through a multiple case study conducted in three first grade primary school classrooms in Cyprus, in which ten language learners and three mainstream teachers were observed for more than 1500 minutes in the classroom and in the playground area. The study was also supported by interviews with the teachers and the GAL learners. In addition, interviews using the young learners’ drawings and persona dolls were conducted to investigate the perspectives of the children. The originality of the study was reflected in the variety of the research methods used, the inclusion of young children in the research, the consideration of bidialectism, the reflection upon both socialising and educational purposes through the use of language and, finally, the different settings where the participants were observed. The results of the study revealed that the instructors used the various linguistic varieties to achieve educational goals through the communication process, in that way prioritising communication over a preferred language. It also became clear that the teachers’ use of language was shown to prioritise communication rather than language learners’ socialisation in a preferred language culture. Moreover, teachers seemed to use the unofficial variety more often than any other linguistic variety as one of the most powerful means of communication they had with the language learners. Similarly, language learners were observed using the unofficial variety almost exclusively while the official variety use was observed only inside the classroom and only in activities that were related to written texts. Also, the playground area was observed to allow young learners to use language more freely, without worrying about mistakes and thus a much more extensive use of verbal speech was noticed. Finally, language learners seemed to use the language first and foremost to become equal members of their school and their class, while their use of language for educational purposes through communication was not a priority as it was for the teachers. None of the previous studies reviewed in the field managed to apply such a rich methodological design, include young students’ voices and examine the language use taking into account the bidialectal phenomenon.
PhD in Education