Dr. Sunny Lau is Appointed Canada Research Chair in Integrated Plurilingual Teaching and Learning

Dr. Sunny Lau is Appointed Canada Research Chair in Integrated Plurilingual Teaching and Learning

On Saturday, February 19, 10:30 a.m., Bishop’s University officially announced the appointment of Dr. Sunny Lau, Associate Professor at the School of Education, as a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Plurilingual Teaching and Learning. To begin the event, The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau et The Honourable Geneviève Hébert said a few words. Then, Dr. Lau and her colleague Dr. Geneviève Brisson from the Département de pédagogie de l’Université de Sherbrooke, offered a workshop for parents who are interested in supporting their children’s second language learning at home. The bilingual workshop (mostly English and French) aims to introduce and demonstrate strategies to use stories as means to promote children’s love for reading and their critical literacy and thinking across languages. This activity has been recorded and is available on the Canada Research Chair in Integrated Plurilingual Teaching and Learning web page.

Not everyone learns the same way. When it comes to learning a new language, being able to compare it to and make connections with a language you already know can enhance understanding and promote effective learning. Thus, having a teacher who might not speak all the languages but knows how to support students to make cross-language connections can facilitate the learning. This is what we call plurilingual education: the use of students’ plurilingual and pluricultural resources in the classroom to promote the use of transferable language strategies and knowledge for more in-depth learning.

In the Eastern Townships and elsewhere in Canada, the number of students whose mother tongue is neither English nor French is rapidly increasing. When learning English or French as a second (or even third) language, those students can benefit from plurilingual teaching which allows them to see the relevance of their languages and cultures in the learning of the target language(s) and subject content.

As Canada Research Chairholder in Integrated Plurilingual Teaching and Learning, Dr. Sunny Lau aims to bring plurilingual teaching and learning to Canada’s classroom. Dr. Lau’s research highlights how language strategies used in one language can be applied in another language for more in-depth learning, and how this helps lessen the fear of acquiring a second or even third language.  “Many immigrant learners have competence in more than one language and culture, but these resources are often not being fully recognized and mobilized by teachers in language and content area classrooms,” explains Dr. Lau. “Most of these students are already plurilingual in the sense that they have competence in more than one language, and students are constantly making links to languages they know and use language strategies and learning strategies that they have to help themselves learn a new language.” 

In collaboration with her research team and with English and French teachers, Dr. Lau develops plurilingual teaching methods that embrace the use of different languages in the classroom and answer the needs of diverse learners. Dr. Lau’s research will also contribute to the training of teachers and help reconfigure schools’ curriculum in Quebec, Canada and beyond.

Please visit Dr. Sunny Lau Canada Research Chair web page for more information on her research.