Benefits of Learning and Mastering Mother Tongue

June 25, 2020

<img src="chalkboard" alt="school chalkboard written do you speak English">

Do your children speak English only? Well if so here’s are some interesting facts about that!

There is a general belief amongst parents that great exposure of a child to their home language (L1) slows them down in learning and understanding [a] second and widely spoken language(s) such as English which generally is the case in South Africa with some suburban parents.

Contrary to popular belief, research shows that, fluency and proficiency in a child’s home or first language is beneficial, more so in learning and adopting a second language (L2) and learning the academics thereof. In fact, a US study of 700 000 non-English students revealed that the more children are academically developed in their mother tongue (L1), the more success they get academically in L2. This is the more reason why parents should speak their home languages to their children, even if they can’t read themselves or teach the technicalities that come with the theory of the language. With that being said, here are more reasons why you should help your children be masters in L1:

  1. The stronger the literacy and knowledge of L1, the faster the transition to L2 – this is the shift of reliance from mother tongue to the reliance in the second language.
  2. Having grasped L2 and learning L1 & L2 simultaneously, children can compare and contrast in the two languages thus giving greater understanding of concepts.
  3. This also leads to greater flexibility in thinking as they interchange in between different languages.
  4. Should children become multilingual, they run an advantage of accessing different learning materials such as newspapers, grandparents and other sources that expands their learning.
  5. It’s a good way to preserve identity and culture.

So supressing the home language isn’t beneficial at all and in fact, it makes it harder for the child to transition into other languages. And as an analogy, think about musicians who are multi-instrumentalists, the reason why they excel in a second/third instrument is because they have mastered their first instrument and feel free to go ask them about this…

Furthermore silencing the mother tongue, robs them of the opportunity of meaningful experiences with those that speak a similar language such as learning, storytelling, conversation and a general sense of having fun with those you belong to. And even in instances where parents migrate to another country, it will be vital that you speak to the child in L1 so that learning of L2 in a foreign country becomes easy.

Additionally, you can encourage your children to write emails, text messages in L1 and listen to radio and TV programmes in L1.

Thank you for reading and please share with friends and family at home and social media if you liked this article.

© 2020, NLT Media (Pty) Ltd