Research question: Do high school students with a recent migration background benefit from taking school tests in their native language?
Recent migration has led to an increase in linguistic and cultural diversity in schools, and this diversity has brought attention to the question of how best to support multilingual students in their academic success. One area of concern is the use of the student’s native language in school testing. The use of a student’s native language in testing has been shown to have a positive impact on the student’s academic performance and well-being (Cummins, 1979; Krashen, 1985; Swain, 1985; Thomas & Collier, 1997).
Cummins (1979) argued that the cognitive and academic development of bilingual students is enhanced when they have the opportunity to use their first language in the classroom. He proposed the “threshold hypothesis,” which states that there is a threshold level of language proficiency in the second language that must be reached before students can fully access academic content in that language. Therefore, using the student’s native language in testing can provide an important bridge to academic content in the second language.
Krashen (1985) also supports the use of the native language in testing, as he believes that it can promote language acquisition and reading comprehension in the second language. He argues that allowing students to use their native language in testing can provide a sense of security and reduce anxiety, leading to better test performance.
Swain (1985) also supports the use of the native language in testing, as she believes that it can promote greater participation and engagement in the classroom. She argues that allowing students to use their native language in testing can provide a sense of empowerment and validation of their linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
Thomas and Collier (1997) conducted a large-scale study of bilingual education programs in the United States and found that students who were taught in their native language and then transitioned to English scored higher on achievement tests than students who were taught only in English from the beginning. They concluded that the use of the native language in testing can support academic success for bilingual students.
In summary, the literature reviewed supports the use of a student’s native language in testing as a way to support academic success and well-being for bilingual students. The use of the native language in testing can provide a bridge to academic content in the second language, promote language acquisition and reading comprehension, increase participation and engagement, and validate the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of bilingual students.
It is important to note that it is also important to ensure that the tests are valid and reliable when using the native language, which should be considered in the research design.
Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49(2), 222-251.
Krashen, S. D. (1985). The Input Hypothesis: Issues and Implications. Longman.
Swain, M. (1985). Communicative competence: Some roles of comprehensible input and comprehensible output in its development. In Gass, S. & Madden, C. (Eds.), Input in second language acquisition (pp. 235-253). New York: Newbury House.
Thomas, W. P., & Collier, V. P. (1997). School effectiveness for language minority students. Washington, DC: National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education.