The current situation of plurilingual approaches in language classrooms in higher education

Presenter: Stephanie Bergmann

Affiliation: University of Bremen, Germany

Chosen format: Presentation


Language classrooms in higher education are highly plurilingual and multilingual places due to the fact that students usually already know different languages. These linguistic repertoires and the general language diversity in the classroom can be employed to learn a new language. Research has shown that plurilingualism and plurilingual approaches in language classrooms offer diverse benefits with regard to metalinguistic abilities, and helpful strategies to learn a new language (Piccardo et al., 2021). In addition, preferences and positive attitudes toward plurilingual approaches, such as more engagement in learning the target language, were detected (Galante et al., 2020). Besides that, the CEFR also emphasizes that plurilingualism is relevant because of its potential for effectively teaching and learning a new language (Council of Europe, 2020).


Despite the recognition as a valuable approach, research shows that theory has not been generally implemented in teaching and learning practices yet (Galante, 2018). Moreover, there has been little discussion about multilingualism or plurilingualism in language courses in the academic context (Bredthauer, 2016). The majority of research has been carried out in the school context with children (e.g., Bredthauer & Engfer, 2018).


Taking up this research gap, this doctoral thesis in progress aims to explore the use of plurilingual approaches in language classrooms in higher education. The first step of the doctoral research project is to evaluate the current situation concerning plurilingualism in language classrooms in the higher education context. This will be done by implementing a mixed-methods study consisting of an online survey with closed (quantitative data) and open questions (qualitative data). The survey will address the teachers’ and students’ attitudes toward plurilingualism in teaching and learning, their understanding and prestige of languages, the use of plurilingual pedagogy and plurilingual approaches in teaching, and the role of learners’ other (home) languages in teaching and learning. The categories and items for the survey will be created on the basis of prior research, and adapted to the context of this study. The participants of the survey will be teachers and students of university language centers in Germany. Given its status as an ongoing research project, initial findings of the survey will be presented at the conference.


Keywords: plurilingualism, multilingualism, language classroom, higher education, language learning, foreign language acquisition


Bredthauer, S. (2016). Gestaltung, Einsatz und Lernerwahrnehmung mehrsprachigkeitsdidaktischer Elemente im Fremdsprachenunterricht – eine exemplarische Untersuchung in einem universitären Niederländischmodul. Zeitschrift Für Angewandte Linguistik, 65(1).


Bredthauer, S., & Engfer, H. (2018). Natürlich ist Mehrsprachigkeit toll! Aber was hat das mit meinem Unterricht zu tun?, 1–20.


Council of Europe. (2020). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Companion Volume. Council of Europe.


Galante, A. (2018). Plurilingual or monolingual? A Mixed Methods Study investigating plurilingual instruction in an EAP program at a Canadian university.


Piccardo, E., Antony-Newman, M., Le Chen, & Karamifar, B. (2021). Innovative Features of a Plurilingual Approach in Language Teaching: Implications from the LINCDIRE Project. Critical Multilingualism Studies, 9(1), 128–155.


Stephanie Bergmann is a research assistant and doctoral student at the Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Studies at the University of Bremen. She is working in the research group on language learning and language teaching led by Prof. Dr. Claudia Harsch. Her research focuses on multilingualism and plurilingualism. In her doctoral thesis, Stephanie explores plurilingualism in language classrooms in higher education. She is especially interested in plurilingual teaching and learning approaches, and how individual linguistic repertories facilitate learning another language.

Presentation slides:

Uni_Bremen_PowerPoint_Stephanie Bergmann_Pluri