Centre for Educational Excellence

A course that “warmly welcomes” multilingual learners

June 16, 2020

Some see the glass as half empty. Some see the glass as half full. Melek Ortabasi and Joel Heng Hartse see the glass as overflowing with potential.

The glass, in this case, is the reality that 40 to 60 percent of SFU undergraduate students regularly use languages other than English (Fall 2019 Undergraduate Student Survey: Preliminary Report).

And while many see that linguistic profile as a potential source of barriers to learning, Ortabasi, chair of SFU’s new Department of World Languages and Literatures, and Heng Hartse, a lecturer and second-language writing specialist in the Faculty of Education, are convinced that the presence of so many multilingual learners can be viewed as a valuable asset.

In 2016, the two colleagues acted on that conviction by creating WL 105W: World Literature Lab, a writing-intensive course in which “a working knowledge of more than one language is […] warmly welcomed.”

The course explored the concept of...

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