Healthy Linguistic Diet: A case study of how it can be implemented in a school

By Dina Mehmedbegovic-Smith

Writing this blog on Eurostar on my way back from two events in Brussels organised by the EU Commission as a part of the process of reviewing recommendations on language teaching to EU member states. I feel very energised by the last two days and I would like to share with everybody my  enthusiasm how realistic  plurilingualism our Healthy Linguistic Diet approach is.

A former headteacher and now a researcher, Dr Deirdre Kirwan, presented a case study of her school – which is a journey of transformation from monolingual English speaking school to a school where plurilingualism became reality. The HLD approach might be perceived as very ambitious or hard to implement. Scoil Bhride, Dublin case study proves that everything we promote under the Healthy Linguistic Diet is realistic, doable and brings inspiring expected and unexpected results: children writing texts in several languages, taking their own initiative to learn other languages, engaging parents and other family members, using multiple languages in classrooms to brain storm, discuss meanings, concepts and diversity of expression, language forms and ways of thinking. The unexpected result is that the status of Irish also blossomed, contrary to fears expressed by parents prior to implementing innovative practices. In this new environment more children started using Irish for communication. This new trend of using Irish also triggered a request from parents and non-teaching staff to learn Irish too. The most important aspect of it all: valuing the child and his/her language and regular oral and written use of multiple languages in the learning environment.

It is also an excellent example what pluriligualism means in practice. This school and its entire community – live plurilingualism.

If you are a school leader or a teacher in doubt how to develop plurilingual approaches and our Healthy Linguistic Diet vision –  this is how it can be done! Here is a case study of a school which went through the transformation of being a monolingual school to being a beacon of utilising diversity for the benefit of all: multilingual and monolingual children, parents, teachers and non-teaching staff. Well done to Deirdre and everybody in her school!


Scoil Brihde, Dublin scoilbhridec.ie

Conference presentation by Dr Deirdre Kirwan: One Irish primary school’s response to linguistic diversity presentations at Teacher education for linguistic diversity: the contribution of the ECML, held in December 2017, available on  ecml.at


A radio documentary

Language Jewels (3 programmes) that was broadcast in January 2015. It explored the approach to linguistic diversity taken in the school.  The following is an extract from the opening blurb:

Language Jewels is a three part series which follows the experience of Scoil Bhríde Cailíní, a primary school based in Blanchardstown that has passed in a short period of time from being a “typical” English speaking primary school, to host more than 40 languages in its classrooms. Join producer Ignacio Irigoien as he follows the journey of the school…

About the author

Dina is an associate professor of Education and Applied Linguistics at University College London, Institute of Education. Dina teaches on a range of programmes at PGCE, MA and doctoral level. She was on the core IOE team developing the National English as an Additional Language (EAL) Workforce Strategy; a key staff member in the development of the new programmes addressing the needs of bilingual children: MA in Bilingual Learners in Urban Settings, PGCE EAL Pathway and MA TESOL pre-service, which she currently leads. Her previous roles also include: Deputy Director of the London Education Research Unit (2009-11) and the editor of the IOE publication the London Digest, with the brief of generating and sharing knowledge on key education issues in London and global cities. Her research focuses on attitudes to bilingualism/multilingualism, minority languages and positioning of languages in relation to domination, political power and language disappearance. She is currently developing interdisciplinary work with colleagues from neuroscience aimed at providing a broader evidence base for advocating cognitive benefits of bilingualism in education and life-long learning. Her concept Healthy Linguistic Diet is an innovative approach to language learning and has been endorsed by the EU Commission in their report: Rethinking Language Education, as a part of the EU Language policy review.


Dina’s work on using autobiographical multimedia classroom approaches to develop intercultural competencies has been published and recognised as good practice by the Department of Education, NALDIC (National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum) and the British Council.

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