Every citizen in the European Union should become multilingual, writes the EU-policy. (COM, 2008). So far, however, not all types of multilingualism in the every-day practice of teachers are acknowledged as an asset for learning. Especially the migrant languages are sometimes ignored and/or forbidden in schools (Pulinx, Van Avermaet & Agirdag, 2015). Families are even asked to communicate less in their mother tongue, which can have negative consequences for language development and cognitive development (Bialystok, 2001).


According to language development expert Jim Cummins (2001, p. 19):

To reject a child’s language in the school is to reject the child.


The question for primary school teachers is: how can we deal with all the different languages and support all pupils in their language development? International research shows that this requires not only a positive attitude towards the pupils' languages, but also that knowledge about multilingual language development and practical skills to apply this knowledge in a didactic manner is a prerequisite.

A total of 12 primary schools (8 in phase 1 and 4 in phase 2) participate in the 3M-project. These schools are divided into four different school types:

  • Trilingual Frisian / Dutch / English primary schools
  • Refugees / Newcomer primary schools
  • Primary schools with a high percentage of migrant language speakers
  • Primary schools with a high percentage of Dutch speakers


Various types of activities are developed for these schools. These activities fall under the three main modules explained above:

  • Attitudes, knowledge & skills


The activities fall under 5 categories:

  • Awareness of own languages and the languages in the environment
  • Knowledge about languages in Fryslân, Europe and the world
  • Knowledge about language differences (vocabulary and syntax)
  • Language learning strategies
  • Knowledge about cultural diversity


The project knows a holistic multilingual education model (Duarte, 2017) in which the appreciation of the language to immersion has a place.


  • Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy, and cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bonacina, F. & Gafaranga, J. (2011). “’Medium of instruction’ vs. ‘Medium of classroom interaction’: language choice in a French complementary school classroom in Scotland”.  International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 14 (3): 319-334.
  • Commission of the European Communities (2008). Multilingualism: an asset for Europe and a shared commitment. Brussels: European Commission.
  • Cummins, J. (1979). “Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children.” Review of Educational Research 49 (2): 222-251
  • Cummins, J. (2001). “Bilingual Children ’s Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education?”. Sprogforum 19: 15-20
  • Jordens, K. (2016). Turkish is not for learning, miss. Valorizing linguistic diversity in primary education. Leuven: KU Leuven.
  • Martin-Jones, M. & Saxena, M. (2003). “Bilingual ressources and ‘Funds of Knowedge’ for teaching and learning in multi-ethnic classrooms in Britain.” International Journal for Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 6 (3-4): 267-282.
  • Pulinx, R., Van Avermaet, P., & Agirdag, O. (2015). “Silencing linguistic diversity: The extent, the determinants and consequences of the monolingual beliefs of Flemish teachers.” International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. DOI: 10.1080/13670050.2015.1102860.
  • Reljic, G., Ferring, D. & Martin, R. (2015). “A meta-analysis on the effectiveness of bilingual programs in Europe.” Review of Educational Research 85 (1): 92-128.