Each year, 21 February is a day where Mother Language Day is celebrated all around the world. The purpose of this day is to promote and celebrate the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The United Nations proclaimed the date of 21 February each year for this event and it has been celebrated around the world since the year 2000. With many Elementary students’ families living away from their home country, it is crucial that families continue to focus and develop their child’s Mother Language. If your child’s first and primary language is strong and growing, it will help them develop a positive identity and a sound foundation to learn other languages.
What do you mean by Mother Tongue or Mother language?
This is the first language your child uses and it is usually the language of the country or cultural group that they come from. It is the language that they first speak, think, and dream in. Children growing up in bilingual families may have more than one Mother Language.
How can we promote Mother Language development at home?
- The most important thing to do is USE your Mother Language at home each day. Some parents worry that this may confuse their child as they are learning English at school. The stronger your child’s Mother Language is, the more it will help your child in learning additional languages.
- Sing songs and tell stories from your culture. Talk about traditions and culture in your family. How are they the same and different to other families you know?
- Read, read, read! Access libraries and resources that have books in your child’s Mother Language. Use these as part of your family’s daily reading habits.
- Encourage your child to re-tell stories they have read at school in their home language.
- Model positive attitudes towards learning all languages but especially the languages used in your family. For families with more than one Mother Language, each parent plays a crucial role of modeling correct language usage.
- Praise your child’s attempts to use multiple languages in different contexts, especially when using their Mother Language in different settings.
- Join community events that use your family’s languages.
- For bilingual families, having each parent focusing on language development in their own Mother Language, as well as modeling and using this language each day.
- Children who are living away from their home country may have stronger speaking and listening skills in their Mother Language than reading and writing. Make sure you provide them with meaningful opportunities for reading and writing on a daily basis through activities such as making shopping lists, writing on birthday cards and notes to friends and relatives.
- Continue doing all of these things as your child gets older. Parents are the key to helping their child develop and maintain their Mother Language no matter how old their child is.
Our Elementary students at RAS are very lucky to come from a range of cultural backgrounds. It is very impressive to see our students using different languages in their learning, which also helps them to make stronger connections and become more critical thinkers. The best resource your children have in developing their Mother Language skills is you, their parents. Keep up the great work helping your child be a strong communicator in their Mother Language!