*What is language awareness?
For many students, English is an additional language. It might be their second or perhaps their
third language. Depending on GISU context, students learn all of their subjects through English.
For all students, regardless of whether they are learning through their first language or an
additional language, language is a vehicle for learning. It is through language that students
access the learning intentions of the lesson and communicate their ideas. It is our responsibility
as teachers to ensure that language doesn’t present a barrier to learning.
One way to achieve this is to support our colleagues in becoming more language-aware.
Language awareness is sensitivity to, and an understanding of, the language demands of our
subjects and the role these demands play in learning. A language –aware teacher plans
strategies and scaffolds the appropriate support to help students overcome these language
*Why is it important for teachers of other subjects to be language-aware?
Many teachers are surprised when they receive a piece of written work that suggests a student
who has no difficulties in everyday communication has had problems understanding the lesson.
Issues arise when teachers assume that students who have attained a high degree of fluency
and accuracy in everyday social English therefore have a corresponding level of academic
language proficiency. Whether English is a student’s first language or an additional language,
students need time and the appropriate support to become proficient in academic language.
This is the language that they are mostly exposed to in GISU and will be required to reproduce
themselves. It will also scaffold their ability to access higher order thinking skills and improve
levels of attainment.
*What are the challenges of language awareness?
Many teachers of non-language subjects worry that there is no time to factor language support
into their lessons, or that language is something they know little about. Some teachers may
think that language support is not their role. However, we need to work with these teachers to
create inclusive classrooms where all students can access the curriculum and where barriers to
learning are reduced as much as possible. An increased awareness of the language needs of
students aims to reduce any obstacles that learning through an additional language might
This does not mean that all teachers need to know the names of grammatical structures or need
to be able to use the appropriate linguistic labels. What it does mean is that we all need to
understand the challenges our students face, including their language level, and plan some
strategies to help them overcome these challenges. These strategies do not need to take a lot
of additional time and should eventually become integral to our process of planning, teaching
and reflecting on our practice. We may need to support other teachers so that they are clear
about the vocabulary and language that is specific to their subject, and how to teach, reinforce
and develop it.