Discussing learning in the mother tongue

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Discussing learning in the mother tongue

Author: Caroline Scott, author and director
 

We are all faced with very different learning situations at the moment and home learning has become the current norm. The challenges it poses are significant. Parents often have limited time available to support learners, limited understanding of where to start, sometimes a lack of technological know-how in accessing online classrooms – or even a lack of access to an online environment altogether. These issues are exacerbated amongst parents with limited understanding of the school language. Whilst some parents are well ahead, their language-learning counterparts are facing the huge task of supporting a child who is learning in a language they aren’t confident in speaking themselves.
 

The importance of the mother tongue

There is a large body of research showing that the use of mother tongue benefits second language development. Learners are more likely to be successful in English (or any language) if they use what they know in their mother tongue to help them with their new language (Cummins, 2000). 

“In the process of learning English, children’s primary cultural and linguistic identities should not be submerged, nor should the process of learning a new language and culture be a one-way journey away from family and community.”
Gibbons, 2015.
 

The impact of using mother tongue to discuss learning at home

Working from home provides a wonderful opportunity for parents to support the development of a learner’s home language. The chance for learners to discuss learning in their home language provide learners with:

  • additional confidence in their school work, in both languages
  • additional vocabulary in both languages​
  • valuable time spent thinking and working in their home language, using this as a support for articulating themselves in English
  • support in reading in their home language (perhaps on curriculum topics)

​Our Parent Information Card, which gives parents some key questions they can ask in their home language, can be downloaded by clicking on the button below.
 

References:

Cummins, J (2000) Language, Power and Pedagogy Bilingual Children in the Crossfire.​ Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

​Gibbons, P. (2015) Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth: Heinemann.

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