Who Are Multilingual Students?

Multilingual students are a diverse group of international and domestic students who use English in addition to other languages. At the Minnesota English Language Program (MELP), our focus is on multilingual students whose first or home languages are not English. Other terms are commonly used at the University of Minnesota, such as ESL (English as a Second Language) or NNS (non-native speaker); however, we prefer using the term multilingual because it promotes an equality of languages rather than a hierarchy of languages.

Multilingual students bring unique languages and diverse cultures, perspectives, and experiences to campus. In the higher education context, what unites multilingual students is that regardless of their linguistic backgrounds, they are all being asked to communicate and produce work using English and may be evaluated on the ways they do so. At MELP, we adopt asset-based approaches to support and engage multilingual students and to foster a linguistically inclusive and affirming campus for all. We do so by: 

  • supporting access to the University and to English language and communication skills used in higher education environments through credit-bearing coursesStudent English language support, online resources, and more.
  • fostering student agency in advocating for recognition of their multilingual skills.
  • supporting faculty and staff in better serving and uplifting multilingual students. 

Professional Development and Services

MELP provides professional development opportunities for faculty and staff to develop skills, knowledge, and dispositions for working with multilingual students, as well as services that serve multilingual students and scholars. This includes developing awareness of second language acquisition (SLA) processes, connections between language and identity, and standard language ideologies. Please reach out to the MELP Faculty and Staff Liaison to learn more.

Tips and Resources

The following links are for faculty, instructors, and staff at the University of Minnesota. This information and research-based strategies help to serve multilingual students more effectively in the classroom, in advising sessions, and through other exchanges.

Campus Partners and Collaborations

MELP brings its expertise in second language acquisition, English language teaching/learning (TESOL), and sociolinguistics to working with partners across campus. Our goal is to support and normalize English language development and create a linguistically affirming and inclusive environment for international and multilingual campus members. Below are some of the campus units or programs that we currently partner with. Please reach out to the MELP Faculty and Staff Liaison if you are interested in partnering or collaborating.

Internationalizing the Curriculum and Campus (ICC), a GPS Alliance initiative, serves as a hub for the rich internationalization efforts across the University of Minnesota system. The ICC team supports faculty and staff who seek to grow their capacity to enrich course curricula and develop pedagogy that focuses on inclusion and integration of our globally diverse communities of learners. We believe this contributes greatly to a broad range of global, international, and intercultural student learning outcomes.

MELP partners with ICC to highlight the role of language in campus internationalization efforts and engaging globally diverse students. MELP and ICC collaborate to develop and offer a variety of professional development opportunities centering international and multilingual students. The jointly offered workshops and presentations satisfy some of the requirements for the Supporting Multilingual Students theme in the Internationalizing the Campus & Curriculum Certificate: Teaching in Globally Diverse Classes.  

International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) is dedicated to serving the University of Minnesota’s international community once they are admitted or making plans to come to UMN and during their time on campus. ISSS aims to cultivate an inclusive community by providing expertise and leadership. They support students and scholars with such things as visas, academic and personal counseling, work/funding options, and engagement opportunities. ISSS also lends their expertise to University staff and departments and offers a variety of training, including an an intercultural workshop series and advisor training.

Professional staff in ISSS have partnered with MELP to offer various workshops for faculty and staff about working with international students and to research international student experiences with special attention to the role of language in those experiences.   

Student English Language Support (SELS) at MELP is a free service that offers 45-minute consultations to international undergraduate students to help further develop their English skills. During a consultation, students can work with trained consultants on any English language skill, including reading, writing, speaking, listening, pronunciation, and cultural adaptation. Students can bring in specific assignments or work on more general English language goals.

The MELP Faculty Liaison works with SELS to coordinate custom workshops for multilingual first-year chemistry students about writing lab reports.

Faculty and Student Voices

Hear directly from international and multilingual students about their experiences on campus, both in and out of the classroom, and from faculty and staff sharing ways they intentionally engage these students.    

Students: Opportunities & Challenges

Student: Academic Experiences

Faculty: Engaging Multilingual Students

Faculty: Maximizing Diversity

Relevant Research and Scholarship

  • Center for Multilingual and Intercultural Communication, Stony Brook University. (n.d.). Language justice in higher education resources: As a teacher. Language Justice in Higher Education. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/mic/resources/language-justice-in-higher-ed#AsATeacher
  • Francis, S. A. (2019). Transforming Higher Education: Creating Linguistically Affirming Campus Environments. Journal of the Student Personnel Association at Indiana University, 24-34.
  • Kurzer, K. (2022). 12 Looking Beyond Grammar Deficiencies: Moving Faculty in Economics Toward a Difference-as-Resource Pedagogical Paradigm. In B. Schreiber, E. Lee & J. Johnson (Ed.), Linguistic Justice on Campus: Pedagogy and Advocacy for Multilingual Students (pp. 198-213). Bristol, Blue Ridge Summit: Multilingual Matters. https://doi.org/10.21832/9781788929509-013
  • Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R., & Tomaš, Z. (2023). Fostering international student success in higher education (2nd edition).  TESOL Press.