Multi-Lingualism Pedagogy for Advancement


Language forms the foundation on which all thoughts, ideas and concepts are built to develop the ability to convert information into knowledge with an ability to communicate and apply it. Mother tongue is learnt from birth and each word is learnt with all its background, history, and linkages without noticing it. A lot of meaning is also imbibed from the social environment, naturally and effortlessly. However, this cannot happen in a foreign language without making a determined effort to gain expertise with all its idioms, figures of speech, colloquialisms and relevant history. A thought or an idea is processed involuntarily in the mother tongue because one has a natural command over it and an ease of expression that gives confidence to think and express. It has been established that good linguistic foundation has to be laid by the age of six and consolidated by the age of 12. In recent years, the issue of mother tongue based language education in schools, has come to forefront of education discussions, worldwide, as nations aim to reach the Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Education, or Education For All (EFA) ‘’The level of development of a children’s mother tongue is a strong predictor of their second language development”. [Cummins 2000]

  • • MTBMLE Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education “refers to the use of students’ mother tongue and two or more additional languages as Languages of Instruction (LoI) in school” (Malone, 2007). “The goal of mother tongue-based, bilingual and multilingual programs is to make children literate in their first language, as well as to help children acquire fluency in a second language” (MTB-MLE Network, 2014)
  • • Multilingual Education: “a structured programme, of language learning and concept formation providing a sound foundation in the first language (mother tongue), adding second (e.g. state) and third languages (e.g. English, Hindi) thus enabling the appropriate use of both/all languages for life-long learning (Malone 2005).
  • Most of the world’s education systems at the K-12 level currently do not value or take advantage of the various heritage languages or mother tongues spoken by the diverse students population of those nations. Half of the world ‘s language will disappear by 2100 according to a prediction by the UNESCO.

During an interaction with a doctor-parent, who expressed her gross concern of her daughter’s inability to speak her mother tongue-Bangla and rather being fluent in English at the nascent age of 10. The mother disclosed that to enable her child in their mother tongue, she took the course of conversing in the same within the family, in order to ensure to develop the essence of one’s literature and culture. In another incident, an army officer expressed a similar concern of his daughter’s inability to converse in Punjabi, which was their mother tongue. Henceforth, she was deprived of reading good Punjabi poetry, idioms etc. and didn’t develop any flavor for the said culture. Despite the seriousness of the issue of fading away on one’s culture and language, most of the parents take pride in the fact that their children perform better in a foreign language- English rather than in their own Mother Tongue.

Donovan and Bransford (2005) have identified a few necessary conditions for effective learning, found through their research. One of them is mentioned as below:

1. Prior knowledge and understanding
This best practice review will focus on the prior knowledge of mother tongue for language learning. Knowledge is not restrained to the information a student has previously learned, but includes also the “totality of the experiences that have shaped the learner’s identity and cognitive functioning” (Bismilla, 2005, ). A student’s experiences and identity are housed in their mother tongue, and thus mother tongue is an integral part of the prior knowledge necessary for students to move forward with their education.

The founding principle, or primary function, of MTBMLE is therefore to draw from students’ abilities in their mother tongue in order for students to better learn new subjects. This also allows teachers to better teach students the L2, often the dominant language of that nation. Educational reforms such as No Child Left Behind in the United States regard a student’s mother tongue as a burden, or useless, and assume that a student’s “cultural knowledge and linguistic abilities […] have little instructional relevance” (Bismilla, 2005).

Many studies have demonstrated that use of students’ first language in education has greater impacts not only on individual students but society as a whole, as it: (1) increases access and equity, (2) improves learning outcomes, (3) reduces repetition and drop out rates (4) fosters positive social cultural benefits and (5) lowers overall costs (Bender, 2005). Research shows that the more we learn to articulate concepts and ideas in our first language, the easier it is to talk about those concepts in our second language as the second language develops, The first language brings meaning to the second language that we are learning and the first language allows us to engage in the topic so that we can understand the second language.

In India most of the people think that if the medium of instructions is a regional language, then their children will be deprived of good jobs. However, it is well established that Mother Tongue spoken countries for e.g. Italians, French, Germans, Spaniards, Japanese, Koreans, Russians, Chinese, etc. are quite advanced. Hence this substantiates the fact that Mother Tongue is in no way a hindrance in advancement and development. It is rather a foundation laying of Multi-Lingual Development. Therefore, it can be said that Mother Tongue is essential for one’s cultural development, National Language is imperative to converse with people of other regions and last but not the least, International Language plays a key role in enablement of communication and placing people of various backgrounds as global citizens on the world map.

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