Mother Tongue Preservation


Should we as International educators promote and help families maintain students’ home language (native language, mother tongue)?   Of course we should!  Many International students come to school with a language different than that of the academic or ‘target’ language. And we know from research, that a STRONG first language is the best predictor of a strong second language.

Jim Cummins states:

The level of development of children’s mother tongue is a strong predictor of their second language development. Children who come to school with a solid foundation in their mother tongue develop stronger literacy abilities in the school language….Children’s knowledge and skills transfer across languages from the mother tongue they have learned in the home to the school language…the concepts, language, and literacy skills that children are learning in the majority language can transfer to the home language.

Fantastic!  So…as educators is it correct to tell families that they need to interact more with their child in their native tongues?  Should we be pushy and a bit bossy about telling parents to read and have fun with literacy in their home languages?  Why not?!  (well, not the bossy part–just facilitate suggestions.) Schools cannot do it all, but providing parent education workshops, web-links, research, and brochures are all some ways to promote growing a balanced multilingual learner who has a strong sense of cultural roots.  Here is a link on tips for parents!

One Response to “Mother Tongue Preservation”

  1. 1 Rick

    Hi Susi,

    I do feel that at times teachers should and have to tell parents a couple of things. It seems they have forgotten they also play a major role in their children’s education as well as their upbringing. As you said, schools can’t do it all and, in my view, many of the problems we face these days could be solved if parents were more present. Not surprisingly, it’s usually the parents of good students who come to school to meet teachers and find out about their children’s development whereas teachers have to beg for parents of disruptive children to come to school and care a tiny bit about their own children.
    I also agree with the fact that a strong literacy in the L1 is an asset in L2 learning. No arguing against that! But I guess one key point is having parents interact with their children. However, what we see more and more often is a TV set (r nowadays the Internet and computers) taking the centre stage while family values and interaction dims to a minimum.
    Cheers from your Brazilian buddy,


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