Multilingual Learners

Multilingual Learners


PLANNING INSTRUCTION & LEARNING ACTIVITIES (read more: pp 184 - 188 in the JITT Guide)

WHAT IS IT?What is it?

Multilingual students come from a variety of backgrounds in terms of language, culture, immigration/visa status, and time spent in the US. The majority of international students are bi or multilingual, with some having taken English classes throughout their schooling.  Others may be refugee students, who may have limited or interrupted literacy development in both their home languages and English. Another group common in California are long-term permanent residents and the children of immigrants (Generation 1.5) who arrived as young children, learning English in the US school system (Menken, 2013)1.


The linguistic backgrounds of multilingual students are often quite varied. Because of their highly varied relationships with English, it is important that instructors recognize the individual needs of multilingual students and resist taking a one-size-fits-all approach to the classroom (CCCC, 2014).

DATA …Data

  • 42% of UCD students reported their linguistic or cultural competency in at one language other than their own as good (or very good or excellent) at matriculation.
  • 64% of UCD students report that they agree (or strongly agree) that the campus values diversity (UCUES, 2018).


  • Students may be proficient in some modalities of English, but not others. Consider employing a variety of modes when lecturing and when designing activities.  All students, not just multilingual ones, can benefit from the inclusion of visuals.

  • Encourage students to read ahead so that vocabulary is present and activated during class and highlight assignments that require more reading/writing so that students can plan accordingly. 

  • Clearly define and explain key concepts in class, instead of expecting students to induce the information from readings. Accompany these explanations with visuals that help students understand complex terms or ideas.

  • Employ think-pair-share activities, which give multilingual students time to first think through a response in writing. 

  • Consider the impact of syntax errors on the students’ ability to communicate their ideas and content. Allow students to complete rough drafts for peer review in class or for editing at the Writing Center.



  • “I once had a class where we worked in small groups.  The instructor had us select one person to report our ideas.  I felt more comfortable talking in a small group, but less when speaking in front of the whole class.” 
  • “Because English is my second language, it really helps me when professors provide a quick overview of the main ideas, structures, and language in a reading.”


  • How can you have students complete a survey at the beginning of the quarter to include questions about their language and communication experiences and strengths? 
  • How can you prioritize feedback on writing to focus more on the content, support, and structure (as compared to other consistent errors)?
  • 1. List of all references in the complete JITT Guide.