Today we are all witnessing an aspect of globalization which is the increasing movement of people from one country to another for different reasons such as education, desire for a better life, need for employment, escape from conflict between groups including oppression of a group . on the other, or natural disasters. Whatever the reason, although this phenomenon can bring many benefits, living in another country affects your mother tongue. In my article, I want to discuss why parents and educators should support children in learning and retaining their native language. As a parent who lives far away from my home country, I was always afraid that my children would not learn their mother tongue well. As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, I have strongly encouraged my ESL students to develop literacy in their native language and to be proud of their culture and country of origin.
Each language spoken in the world represents a special culture, melody, color and heritage, and for all of us, our mother tongue is undoubtedly one of the most precious treasures of our lives. It is a duty and a responsibility to preserve it and pass it on from generation to generation. Whether the need is urgent or for other reasons, learning another language brings many advantages in our lives. A new language opens a new window on our worldview and makes us more aware, open and respectful of other cultures, lifestyles, customs and beliefs. Furthermore, it has been shown that knowing another language contributes to helping us better understand our mother tongue. However, much research indicates that most children eventually learn a second language, or even more, at a native-like level of fluency, what immigrant families often fail to realize is that many of their children are at risk of losing your mother tongue.
Mother tongue for emotional and mental growth
The mother tongue has a very powerful impact on the formation of the individual. Our first language, the beautiful sounds we hear and become familiar with before being born in the womb, play an important role in shaping our thoughts and emotions. The psychological and personality development of a child will depend on what has been transmitted through the mother tongue. With this in mind, as psychologists say, it is extremely important that language expressions and vocabulary are chosen carefully when talking to children. A child's first understanding of the world around him, learning concepts and skills, and his awareness of existence, begins with the first language he is taught, his mother tongue. In the same way, a child expresses his first feelings, his joys, his fears and his first words through his mother tongue. The mother tongue plays such an important role in structuring our thinking, emotions and spiritual world, as the most important phase of our life, childhood, passes in its footsteps. A strong bond between a child and his parents (especially the mother) is established through love, compassion, body language and also through the most important thing, which is verbal language. When a person speaks their native language, a direct connection is established between the heart, brain and language. Our personality, character, modesty, shyness, shortcomings, our abilities and all other hidden characteristics are truly revealed through the mother tongue because the sound of the mother tongue in the ear and its meaning in the heart give us confidence and security. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you speak to him in his language, it will touch his heart", says Nelson Mandela. I found an interesting article in support of the above. A study was carried out with fifteen Italian interpreters working for the European Union who translated into English and Italian. The interpreters spoke extremely fluent English. The study revealed marked differences in brain activity when subjects were shown words in their native language compared to other languages they spoke. About 170 milliseconds after being shown a word, the researchers recorded a spike in electrical activity in the left side of the brain, in an area that recognizes letters as part of words before their meaning is interpreted.These brain waves had a much greater amplitude when the word was in Italian, the language that interpreters use. learned before the age of five. “The findings show how the brain differently absorbs and remembers languages learned in early childhood and later in life,” said Alice Mado Proverbio, professor of cognitive electrophysiology at Milano-Bicocca University in Milan. Proverb attributed the differences to the fact that the brain absorbs the native language at a time when it is also storing visual, acoustic, emotional and other non-linguistic knowledge. This means that the native language triggers a series of associations within the brain that manifest as increased electrical activity. “Our mother tongue is the language we use to think, dream and feel emotions,” said Proverbio.
Mother tongue is an indicator of cultural identity
A child connects with his parents, family, relatives, culture, history, identity and religion through his mother tongue. The mother tongue connects the child to the culture of the society they come from and shapes their identity. Many children from immigrant families, who do not know their mother tongue well, find themselves at the crossroads of an identity crisis. When a child does not know his language well, we cannot say that he will be adequately nurtured by his culture, as the relationship between language and culture is deeply rooted. The mother tongue is one of the most powerful tools for preserving and transmitting culture and cultural ties. Children who are unaware of their culture, language and history will lose confidence in themselves, their family, society and the nation they belong to and will have no choice but to look for an alternative identity. A child will identify with the language and culture they know best. For this reason, the attitudes and beliefs of immigrant parents are so important in this regard. If they want to prevent this from happening, they must find ways to help their children maintain and improve their mother tongue while continuing to convey affirmative messages and maintain positive attitudes towards other cultures. Nor should we forget that we live in a multicultural society and we should teach our children to know other cultures and respect them too.
Mother tongue provides the basis for learning another language
Jim Cummins also emphasizes the importance of preserving the mother tongue: “Children who come to school with a strong foundation in their mother tongue develop stronger literacy skills in the language used at school. When parents or caregivers can spend time with their children and tell stories or discuss topics with them in a way that builds vocabulary and concepts in their native language, children arrive at school well prepared to learn the language of their immigrant country. educationally successful. 🇧🇷
The ability to converse in a language is developed through the mother tongue. The child will become familiar with the nuances of a language, how to learn and use it, and this will allow him to learn other languages as well. A solid foundation in their first language will contribute to their learning of another language and help them develop stronger literacy skills in the school language, because children's knowledge and literacy skills transfer between languages, from mother tongue to mother tongue. language in which the child is learning school. As children continue to develop their skills in two or more languages throughout the elementary school years, they gain a deeper understanding of the language and gradually gain knowledge about how it can be manipulated and applied in different ways. They explore the similarities and differences between languages. Unfortunately, for many bilingual children who have little mother tongue support at home, once they start school their mother tongue is gradually replaced by the majority or dominant language, especially in the early school years. Some parents and educators believe that in order for children to learn a second language quickly and be successful in school, children must use the majority language not only at school but also at home. In fact, the opposite is true. Children can learn two or more languages at the same time. We know children who learn to speak two or three languages fluently in some countries where more than one language is spoken. Research shows that children from immigrant families learn the majority social language in the early years of school very quickly, although they take longer to learn the academic language and may lose the ability to use their native languages easily. They can lose it even in the domestic context if the mother tongue is not used consistently at home or among peers in the same community. They can maintain comprehension but will use the majority language with their siblings, friends and parents. Sadly, I often see children from the same minority community speaking the majority language instead of their native language to each other, even when they are out of school. The preference for the second language over the first occurs, in most cases, because the child does not know how to express himself fluently in the mother tongue in certain contexts and situations. They lack vocabulary and literal expressions in their mother tongue and find it easier to express themselves in the majority language. As children grow older, parents see the language gap between them and their child widen, leading to emotional disconnect.
How to promote mother tongue
The maintenance of the mother tongue in a foreign country does not happen spontaneously. On the contrary, it is an achievement that requires commitment and determination, especially from the family. Parents should establish a strong mother tongue policy and make consistent efforts to help their children develop good literacy skills in their first language.
Here are some ideas on how parents can promote mother tongue learning:
-The first step that parents must take is to make children love their mother tongue, finding ways that motivate and stimulate their learning.
-Leave the second language to the outside world and speak to children only in their native language at home.
- Spend some time each day reading and writing in the mother tongue with children until they are able to read and write independently.
-Tell stories and discuss interesting topics such as your childhood: Children love to hear about their parents' childhood, the celebrations of their home country, as this will develop their vocabulary and oral skills.
-Have books and multimedia for children in the mother tongue.
- Provide a reward system and make mother tongue learning competitive among children.
-Watch favorite TV series or cartoons with them in target language.
-Listen to songs in the mother tongue.
-Send children to centers that offer courses and other learning in their language.
-Provide contexts where children can use their mother tongue such as visits to their country of origin, organization of picnics, cultural events or celebrations with families from the same community.
-Ask them to keep diaries in their mother tongue.
- Communicate your expectations about your mother tongue with your child's teachers. As professionals, they can encourage and support your child in maintaining and developing their native language in many ways.
Hurisa Guvercin is an ESL and special education teacher currently based in New Jersey.
Cumins, Jim. The mother tongue of bilingual children. Why is it important for education? Available from http://www.iteachilearn.com/cummins/mother.htm. Accessed in June 2009.
International Herald Tribune, May 23, 2008 Brain Activity Reveals Mother Tongue. Available at http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/05/23/europe/EU-FEA-GEN-Italy-Language-Of-Thoughts.php
1. “Brain Activity Reveals Mother Tongue” published March 23, 2008 in the International Herald Tribune.