Making plurilingualism accessible: teaching plurilingual literature(s) in the language classroom

Presenter: Matthias Myrczek

Affiliation: University of Bremen, Germany

Chosen format: Presentation


“Trevor, Sun’qhela!” was one of the most frequent phrases Trevor Noah heard when he was growing up (Noah 2020: 21). It was his mother’s warning, in Xhosa, not to challenge her and do as he is told. Now a famous comedian and host of the Daily Show in the USA, Trevor Noah looks back on his childhood and adolescence in his 2016 autobiography “Born A Crime. Stories from a South African Childhood”. Growing up in post-apartheid South Africa, Noah, the son of a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa woman, was confronted with the country’s elven of ficial languages and several more unof ficial ones while finding his way in a society which has no real place for people with mixed ancestry. By having full or partial fluency in English, Xhosa, Zulu, Afrikaans, Sotho, and German among others, he was able to navigate some of the barriers of his formative years. With the help of this non-fiction book, which is available in multiple school editions, the presentation will attempt to show how awareness for plurilingualism can be fostered in the language classroom through teaching literature. Different methods and approaches of teaching plurilingual literature(s) will be discussed in order to see that more than just reading in the sense of consuming the book is needed to achieve a higher degree of plurilingual, and thus in this case intercultural, awareness. Considering the need to choose student-oriented literature to create a meaningful reading experience, the question will be addressed whether plurilingual literature(s) should play a larger role in language classrooms where a majority of the students have plurilingual backgrounds themselves and have direct experience with the perception that: “Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says ‘We ́re the same.’ A language barrier says ‘We ́re different.’” (Noah 2020: 60) The talk will go beyond the scope of “Born a Crime” and try to show that such an approach is not just possible for a South African context but for many other English-speaking countries traditionally discussed in German language classrooms such as the USA or New Zealand. It can be adapted to be either an oral presentation or a workshop.


Cited literature:

Noah, Trevor (2020): Born A Crime. Stories from a South African Childhood. Berlin: Cornelsen.



Matthias Myrczek is currently a lecturer for “Fremdsprachendidaktik Englisch” at Bremen University and teaches English, History and European Studies at the Hermann-Böse Gymnasium Bremen where he is also the Head of the Humanities Department. His fields of interest are the processes involved in learning and teaching literature, CLIL and the use of digital media in the classroom. He studied English and History at RWTH Aachen University between 2007 and 2012, completed his teacher training in NRW in 2012/13 and has since then worked at different schools in Bremen.

Presentation slides:

Teacup_plurilingualism literatures