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What is a Mother Tongue? – Part 2

Feb 22, 2022

With increased migration and the growing popularity of international schools, the number of children learning in a language other than their mother tongue is growing rapidly.

Research indicates that having a strong mother tongue foundation leads to a much better understanding of the curriculum as well as a more positive attitude towards school, so it’s vital that children maintain their first language when they begin schooling in a different language.

Mother tongue meaning
Mother tongue can often be referred to as your first language or native language. It is the language that you most commonly speak. However, mother tongue is always referencing the language that the child has used from birth and in important and impacting times in the child’s life.

For example, there are instances where a child is brought up until school age using a particular language at home spoken by their mother, father or other family members, but due to living in another country begins to adopt the language spoken in their interactions in groups or school.

Mother tongue for a child involves more than just language and includes the child’s personal, social and cultural identity. The choice of words and expression carry different meaning across cultures and where in one language asking direct questions is considered intrusive, in another it is inquisitive. This means that the language chosen when speaking is thought about before it is delivered.

What is mother tongue in education?
Mother tongue in education refers to when a school or educational institution integrates the language a child is most familiar with (their mother tongue) into the classroom lesson along with the school’s lesson (such as English). This is normally the language that the child speaks at home with their family.

Some children (particularly those that grow up in a mixed race parent household or those living abroad) already know two or more languages by the time they reach school age, which in education terms means that their mother tongue is the language most spoken at home.

If this is two languages, then the child is lucky enough to have two mother tongue languages since their ability in both languages is equal. However, this is very rare as most commonly in households, one of the languages is predominantly used over another.

Research shows that children learn better when taught in their mother tongue, however it is not always possible.

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