Mother tongue learning – A bridge to multilingualism

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“Educationally, a child cannot learn the facts and ideas of what is been communicated unless he has an understanding of the language of instruction.” – European Journal of Social Science, 2009

At Xander Apps we are passionate about the importance of mother tongue education, and we make it our mission to develop and offer a variety of Apps to African early learners in their mother tongue. But why exactly is this so important? Let’s explore the issue.

The mother tongue can be defined as the first language that a child comes into contact with, and as the dominant language in that child’s immediate environment. Psychologists believe that children acquire the basic structures and rules of their mother tongue even before they can verbalise and communicate in it, through what is termed the Language Acquisition Device. The Language Acquisition Device, or LAD for short, is a hypothetical tool hardwired into the brain which helps children rapidly learn and understand language.

The mother tongue is thus effortlessly learned, and becomes a part of a child’s experience of their environment, and a natural part of who they are. The structures and rules of the mother tongue also act as a template for the acquisition of second or third languages later in life, in that most languages follow similar structural rules.

“Using the mother tongue, we have (1) learnt to think, (2) learnt to communicate and (3) acquired an intuitive understanding of grammar. The mother tongue opens the door, not only to its own grammar, but to all grammars, inasmuch as it awakens the potential for universal grammar that lies within all of us.” – Language Learning Journal, 2003.

If we then consider how integral a part the mother tongue plays in a child’s experience of its initial environment; then we realise the importance of this language as a medium of education.

If children learn something new in their mother tongue, they learn it effortlessly, without having to struggle with the medium. Learning is direct, faster and more easily integrated. Psychologically also, children are more at ease in communicating in the language of the immediate family circle, which adds to general confidence.

The importance of the mother tongue, and early learning in the mother tongue, can therefore not be overstated. The Xander Apps team continues to develop education apps in African languages, so that children can not only learn in their own languages, but have the opportunity to learn second or third languages as well. We support mother tongue education and will continue to work towards a multilingual future.

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