Reflection 4: Habibi

Reflection based on lesson 8: Working with Graphic Novels or Novels for Teenage Readers on the 23rd of March 2018. This reflection will focus on the pair-work of the graphic novel Habibi by Craig Thompson (2011):

During this lesson, I looked at the beautiful graphic novel Habibi with Emil Alexander. The book itself touches upon very heavy subjects both in writing (the story itself), but certainly also from the pictures, which add severity to the meaning regarding e.g., rape and violence. This book will not be suitable for all students and probably only 9th-grade students. Besides this initial disclaimer, I would like to point out 2 main reasons for using this kind of literature in the classroom:

  • A pluralistic approach to language teaching:
    Using books with a lot of Arabic text like Habibi, enabling students with Arabic as their first language, to not only help the rest of the class better but also to enable the Arabic speaking students to draw upon their language prerequisites when reading working this book in the English classroom.
  • Intercultural competence, specifically developing critical cultural awareness: This book has been written by an American, thus the many scenes of violence are naturally shaped by his perception of ‘the Middle East’ and the culture thereof. Reading, reflecting and discussing literature like this in the English classroom can enable students to gain critical cultural awareness, through discussing subjects like critical media literacy, subtextuality, othering and stereotyping.



Reflection 1: Plurilingual Language Pedagogies

Reflection based on Chapter 2, Flersprogethedsdidaktik i fremmedsprogsundervisningen, from the book Fremmedsprogsdidaktik. Mellem fag og didaktik (Daryai-Hansen, P., Søndergaard Gregersen, A., Jacobsen, S.K., Von Holst Pedersen, J., Svarstad, L.K. & Watson, C., 2018)

Opposing to the traditional singular approach to language teaching/learning, the research within foreign language didactics has shifted its paradigm to a more holistic and additive understanding of the individual’s plurilingual competencies, but we haven’t yet succeeded to intergrade that within the classrooms. Pluralistic approaches do enable the students to use their individual language repertoires when acquiring a new language. The students will go from being able to draw on intuitive- and epilinguistic knowledge to a conscious metalinguistic knowledge (Moore, 2014, p.46).

Within the plurilingual view on language learning, there are 3 approaches:

  1. The Integrated Language Didactic
  2. Linguistic Awareness Through a Pluralistic Approach
  3. Intercomprehension Between Related Languages

The purpose of the integrated language didactic approach is to strengthen the students’ communicative competencies. The integrated language didactic focusses on teaching activities that build bridges between Danish, the foreign languages within the curriculum and the first languages of the students. Within this approach is used a systematic incorporation of the students’ existing linguistic prerequisites in comparison with English and Danish e.g. finding similarities and similar words across languages. As 10% of our Danish students have a different first language than Danish, it’s very important to customise the learning environment to the individual students. The approach can also be used within other subjects than language e.g., by letting the students gather knowledge on a subject in other languages than Danish.

Linguistic awareness through a pluralistic approach focusses on strengthening the students’ linguistic awareness and linguistic recognition. This approach incorporates other languages to a more explicit degree in the sense that, there’s not just room for using the student’s prerequisites within assignments or activities, but the teaching of foreign languages itself will consist of multiple relevant languages and varieties of language such as dialects.  The approach uses material which is highly content-oriented and, that offers the students to reflect upon language comparisons, but also learning strategies used within the specific tasks and hereby gain linguistic awareness.

Intercomprehension between related languages is an approach that focusses on how the comprehension within one known language rubs off when learning a new language. This approach supports the student’s ability to reading- or listening comprehension. The students will work with languages related to the language they are actually being taught in order to draw upon their general prerequisites and context-based knowledge from the whole class. Meaning that their lexical-semantic- and syntax-morphological knowledge comes into play. The purpose of including other (but related) languages, than the one they are being taught, is to develop the students’ communicative receptive competencies within languages. But at the same time, they are gaining a linguistic awareness of the language that they currently being taught along with the recognition of language they wouldn’t normally meet within the school.

Whether a teacher is using one or the other plurilinguistic approach, the student’s awareness of language can be developed according to the following 5 central knowledge-levels as introduced by Moore (2014):

  1. Knowledge of language learning and language learning strategies (language acquistion)
  2. Knowledge of the coherence between language and social context (metapracmatic)
  3. Knowledge of discourses (matediscursice)
  4. Knowledge of texts (metatextual)
  5. Knowledge of language in general (metalinguistic), which can be divided into metalexical-semantic, metamorphological-syntax, metaphonoligical and metaortographic



Moore, D. (2014): Sproglig opmærksomhed – en tilgang til at tyrke sproglæring fra den tidlige barndom. Sprogforum, 59: 41-48

Analysis of Teaching Material

The interlanguage is a language in itself e.g. between a student’s mother tongue (L1) and  English as a foreign language (L2), it has its own rules which develop over time and vary from person to person depending on their different hypotheses within different areas e.g., contemporary grammatical rules. “I takt med at eleven får be- og afkræftet sine hypoteser og møder nyt sprogligt input, forandrer intersproget sig. På baggrund af de nye sproglige erfaringer og den respons, eleven får på sit sproglige udtryk, daner eleven løbende nye regler. I de fleste tilfælde kommer elevens intersprogsregler i stigende omgang til at ligne de regler, man finder beskrevet i grammatikbogen.” (Laursen & Holm, 2010, p.47).

I have been looking at the European Language Portfolios (LPs) as a tool for linguistic development in EFL education. The European LP is a language-learner’s personal document, that can be used to follow one’s own linguistic development along with cultural experiences within and outside of school (or other institution where the explicit learning takes place). The document exists in many variations, in 76 languages, but mutual for all of them are, that they are built upon the Common European Framework (CEFR; the European work to create a common framework for reference for language which builds the basis for FFM). Gabriele Wolf, a lector at VIA Teacher Education in Aarhus, argues for the usage of LP, as a method to create heteroglossic foreign language education (2014 & 2015). LP can be used to create a translingual space i.e., a transformative linguistic space, where plurilingual language users connect their personal stories, experience, surroundings, opinions and cognitive as well as physical capacities to a joint meaningful preparation and therethrough making it into the lived experience (Wei, 2011, p.1223). LPs are developed to support the individual person’s autonomous learning process, visualisation of plurilingual competence profiles, intercultural awareness, experience, and competences incl. life-long language learning (Wolf, 2015). With language portfolios, teachers can include and accommodate students’ diverse language prerequisites and repertoires in foreign language teaching. Besides the linguistic benefit, the usage of LP can be used to create a greater sense of equality between the majority- and minority students i.e., a tool to reduce prejudices and supporting the bilingual student’s self-esteem, because diversity is seen as a strength and as a positive influence between students – and can be used to create a room of possibility to build intercultural competencies, which is crucial in a globalised society, not to mention a globalised world (Buchard & Fabrin, 2012).

According to the cognitive as well as the socio-cultural view on language acquisition, the student’s joint linguistic prerequisites are used when acquiring/learning a new language (Holmen & Byram, 2015). Meaning that bi- or plurilingual students have greater potentials for being creative, gaining metalinguistic awareness and communicative sensitivity, but a cognitive advantage does not trigger automatically, it is only activated, when students learn languages in an additive learning environment, that build upon the students’ actual assumptions (Baker, 2006). Thus bilingual students ought to have better chances, that students whom only have Danish to ‘pull’ from when learning a foreign language, but statistics show, that the bi-lingual students are doing more poorly when acquiring a new language. Though a Swedish research of the 9th-grade results shows, that the minority students, who have received teaching in their mother tongue, are above average than the other students – and English is the subject in which they do best (Holmen & Byram, 2015).

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In particular, I’ve looked at the Norwegian version, which is the one typically referred to in Denmark, because they have integrated “immigrant-languages”. In the theory of using the students existing linguistic repertoires (mother tongue etc), as a resource for language acquisition, metacommunicative awareness, and interlanguage development, the LP is an ideal tool. The teacher and the learner can use it as an opportunity to explore and identify the learner’s prerequisites within the communicative competence and cultural understanding. Minimum 10% of the students in the Danish schools are bilingual and the majority of those students have either Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish or Somali as their mother tongue. But I found, that Arabic only appears on 4 out of 60+ pages in the Norwegian LP. – Turkish, Kurdish and Somali I have no knowledge of detecting. Therefore, to reach the goal for students and teachers to include more languages when possible, for the students to gain the introspective view of their own learning and language use, thereby reaching metacommunicative awareness (Færch, 1984), the LP has to be adapted to fit the language profiles of the students of the Danish classrooms. We ought to create a Danish LP where every page contains Danish, English as a foreign language AND Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish and Somali for the tool to be relevant in the Danish schools.


  • Baker, C. (2006): Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Multilingual Matters. 
  • Buchard & Fabrin (2012): Interkultural Didaktik — Introduktion til teorier og tilgange. Chapter 1: Multikulturalistisk Undervisning. Gyldendals Lærerbibliotek 
  • Europæisk Sprogportfolio. 2016. ECML (European Centre for Modern Languages) Kontaktpunkt Danmark.
  • Færch, C. et al. (1984): Learner Language and Language Learning. Gyldendal
  • Holmen, A. (2011): At tage udgangspunkt i det kendte – om brug af modersmålet ved tilegnelsen af et nyt sprog. Tidsskrift for sprog- og kulturpædagogik: Nr. 51. Sprogforum
  • Holmen, A. & Byram, M. et al. (2015): Sprogfag i forandring. Pædagogik og praksis.
  • Laursen & Holm (2010): Dansk som Andetsprog – pædagogiske og didaktiske perspektiver. Dansklærerforeningen
    Wei, L. (2011): Moment analysis and translanguaging space: Discursive construction of identities by multilingual Chinese youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, pp. 1222–1235
  • Wolf, G. (2014): Åbne sider – På opadgelse i elevernes sproglige repertoirer – på vej mod en heteroglossisk fremmedssprogsundevisning? Tidsskrift for sprog- og kulturpædagogik: Nr. 59. Sprogforum
  • Wolf, G. (2015): Den Europæiske Sprogpotfolio i danske klasseværelser – Hvilke muligheder ligger der i integrationen af Den Euroæiske Sprogportfolio i fremmedsprogsundervisningen i en dansk kontekst? VIA University College