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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