The Importance of Mother Tongue

Ms. Paminder Kohli | 23rd August, 2016 Back to Blog

The term mother tongue is used in the research literature in various ways. It may denote the language learned first; the language identified with as a “native” speaker; the language known best; the language used most.

A child’s first comprehension of the world around him, the learning of concepts and skills, starts with the language that is first taught to him. Mother language has such an important role in framing our thinking and emotions. According to studies a child’s ability to learn an additional language greatly improves if their first language skills are well developed because children’s literacy knowledge and abilities transfer across languages from mother tongue to the language the child is learning at school. Research shows that children who have a strong foundation in their home language are more successful at school and enjoy a greater feeling of self-worth and identity. (UNESCO)

Mother tongue is one of the most powerful tools used to preserve and convey culture. Jim Cummins also underscores the importance of preserving mother tongue: “When parents are able to spend time with their children and tell stories or discuss issues with them in a way that develops their mother tongue vocabulary and concepts, children come to school well prepared and succeed educationally.”

The IB supports and advocates the importance of learning in the mother tongue, and acknowledges that development of mother-tongue language is crucial for both cognitive development and maintaining cultural identity. As the IBO states, gaining and maintaining proficiency in one’s mother tongue helps in the learning of other languages. It also provides students with a deeper understanding of inter-cultural awareness. As proficiency in one’s mother tongue is an indicator for later academic success, students should begin studying their mother tongue as soon as possible based on each individual case. (IBO)

We at RBKIA believe that it is vital that all students have the opportunity to maintain and develop their Mother Tongue (the main language that the student uses at home) wherever feasible. We recognize the importance of strengthening our students’ home languages while at the same time learning the school’s medium of instruction in English.

In the primary years we organise Mother Tongue classes outside the school curriculum through Mother tongue Clubs. In these clubs students extend their linguistic knowledge through fun activities, such as games, songs and stories. The whole idea of the Mother Tongue Lessons is to help validate students’ sense of identity and heritage. We are continuously looking for innovative ways to facilitate the maintenance of your child’s Mother Tongue.

How Can Parents Help?

Using global contexts, MYP students learn to explore:

  • » Actively encourage the use of the Mother Tongue in the home.
  • » Promote knowledge and interest in your child’s first language by reading or telling stories in their mother tongue because this will develop both their oral and vocabulary skills.
  • » Encourage your child to read novels and textbooks in their mother tongue.
  • » Speak to children only in your mother tongue at home.
  • » Watch TV series or favourite cartoons with them in the target language.
  • » Listen to songs in mother tongue.

These ways will help children retain a positive attitude toward their mother tongue and cultural background resulting in increased self-esteem and its resultant benefits.