“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela
International Mother Language Day is celebrated on February 21. This year, I brought the special day up in the classroom. The students were surprised knowing that there is special day to celebrate mother language.
Why do we celebrate mother language?
….Because language is important..
What makes you say that? Why do we have languages?
- to show respect to our and other languages
- to accept others
- to communicate with others
- to talk and write
- to explain and share
- to express ourselves
- to make friendship – you can’t make friends if you can’t communicate, right?
- to think – we can’t think without languages. We need words to think.
The students were sharing their thoughts about language. I find it interesting when one said ‘We need words to think.’ A few days before the international mother language day, we went on a multicultural concert which let students listen to music in different languages. They didn’t understand the languages but most of them said that they could feel the songs. How? The melody, the pictures, the movements showed the feeling of the songs.
I am amazed to see most of students speak more than two languages. They speak to me in English and switch to German during German lesson or when they hang out with their friend. Then, they speak with their parents in Hungarian, Arabic, etc. It seems that they have a switch button in their brains.
Although the language of instruction in my school is English, I allow the students to think and find information in their mother tongue, especially during inquiry journey. Language should not be a barrier for them to learn. Instead, language should be a medium for them to construct their understanding. Once they understand, they would be able to transfer their understanding in any languages.
I asked the students to bring their favourite story book in their mother tongue. They were enthusiastic and super excited about reading it aloud in the class. They were being good listeners and open-minded. They were listening attentively although they didn’t understand the languages. They were curious about what happened in the stories and asked questions. We had the opportunity to identify the problem and solution occurred in the story (as a part of our current unit- How we express ourselves).
It is important to encourage the students to continue developing their mother tongues. A selection of books in different languages should be available in the school/class library. Involving parents to support the mother tongue programme could be one of the activities. Allowing students to use their mother tongue when constructing meaning would also benefit for their learning. All practices of the mother tongue should be included in the school language policy.
How do you develop your mother tongue programme in your school? How does your school support the mother tongue programme?
- Supporting mother tongue in international schools
- Supporting children’s mother tongue
- Children learn better in their mother tongue
- The important of mother tongue education
- Classroom Globetrotting