What does your mother tongue mean to you?

We asked some multilingual friends (and their children) to explain what their mother tongue means to them and what it feels like to speak more than one language.

Aroha (14 years):

To me, being bilingual is like playing a game of Memory with your mind. Except instead of an image on your card, you have a word in one of the languages you speak. Sometimes you find the matching card immediately. At other times it takes a lot longer. And you just keep staring at the card in your hand. It is all you can see and you just can’t manage to find the other. Which, as you can imagine, is very frustrating….

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There is overwhelming evidence that children perform better, gain more self-confidence and learn the school language faster when their mother tongues are included in the classroom. The UN has encouraged mother tongue based instruction as best practice since the 1950s. Yet, implementation is rare. The result is lost opportunities, wasted talent, marginalisation, ignorance, as well as massive and growing inequality.

Generations of people grow up failed by their education systems from day one. A systematic human rights failure which is likely to continue unabated unless we act now.

Rutu Roadmap

We believe that it is time for mother tongue based multilingual education becoming the norm, rather than the exception. We have formulated a roadmap how to achieve this mission. You are welcome to view and share this roadmap with peers.

Kick start event

On 6 November 2015, we are partnering with the University of Utrecht to host an event to formally announce the plan and begin fostering support behind it. More details are found here. We will host a webinar in early December to outline the plan.

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Suriname is characterised by great ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity. In a population of less than 500,000 people, more than 20 languages are spoken. The Sranan language is the closest to a lingua franca. Most children speak Dutch as a second or foreign language. Yet only Dutch is officially recognized, in this former…

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Support Negrito Education

The example of the Negrito shows how relatively small projects can have a big impact (read more here). The Rutu Foundation supports the work of Jenne de Beer with the Negrito in the Philippines. Would you like to help? With your contribution (monthly or one-off), we can achieve the following: 1) Printing ‘Negrito…

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Report of a Rutu Foundation ‘Evening at the Lloyd Hotel’ Amsterdam, April 16, 2015 by Tamara Sijlbing Culture, language, biodiversity, and honey were brought together at the lecture ‘Hunting and Gathering in the Philippine rainforest: for children too?’ which was organised by the Rutu Foundation. Curious about the connection? Please read on, because…

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International Mother Language Day 2015

The 21st of February marks the 15th anniversary of International Mother Language Day. The theme this year is ‘Inclusion in and through Education: Languages Matter’. The Rutu Foundation asked bilingual friends all over the world to share what their mother language mean to them. How did an indigenous community in Suriname celebrate the…

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Kari’na is one of the severely endangered languages of Suriname and Galibi is the only community where the language is still widely spoken. In fact, the parents, village leaders and teachers of Galibi have been the driving force behind our pilot project to design bilingual education materials and to train teachers in…

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UNESCO has long insisted that languages play an essential role in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In a brochure released last year UNESCO explains why. Among others: Languages are essential to achieving universal primary education (MDG 2). the safeguarding of local and indigenous knowledge and know-how with a view to ensuring…

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Tweet in your #MotherLanguage

The 21st of February marks the celebration of the bird-bangla International Mother Language Day. We invite everyone to join this social media campaign!

The International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by UNESCO en celebrates the worldwide linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

Join us and tweet in your own language using the hash tags #motherlanguage and #your own language (e.g. #Sranan, #Kari’na, #Saamaka).
More information here.

A new study by tKawemhakan boathe World Resources Institute shows that deforestation can be up to 20 times lower in community forests that have strong legal protection, than in areas that do not enjoy such protection.

This is a compelling argument to strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples to own and manage their territories.

It also points to the urgent need to support indigenous peoples with the transfer of their unique ecological knowledge to their children.

The Rutu Foundation works with indigenous communities to integrate their languages and knowledge into the education system by training teachers and developing multilingual learning materials.