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Mother-language based Multilingual Education in the Early Years


Mother-language based Multilingual Education in the Early Years Jessica Ball School of Child and Youth Care Human Early Learning Partnership: REACH UVIC – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Mother-language based Multilingual Education in the Early Years

  • Mother-language based Multilingual Education in
    the Early Years
  • Jessica Ball
  • School of Child and Youth Care
  • Human Early Learning Partnership REACH UVIC
  • University of Victoria
  • UNESCO International Symposium
  • Translation and Cultural Mediation Information

Invigorate supports for learning in mother-tongue
in early years
  • Until now, deliberations have focused on language
    use, development, maintenance in formal
    schooling beyond.
  • Little discussion or research on mother-tongue
    use, development maintenance in the early years
    when family members early childhood
    practitioners are the childs first teachers.

4 Cornerstones to secure a strong foundation for
young children
  • Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care
  • 1. Start at the beginning parenting programmes,
    services for vulnerable families.
  • 2. Get ready for success access to early
    childhood care development programmes
  • 3. Improve primary school quality
  • 4. Include early childhood in policies
  • Mother-tongue should be the primary vehicle for
    communication in each of these foundational

Start at the beginning
  • Early childhood programmes birth to 8 years old
  • Counter linguistic cultural loss
  • Fulfill childrens rights to learn in their
    mother tongue
  • Ensure familiar culture language during
    transition to school

  • What are we talking about?
  • Who are we talking about?
  • Why are we talking about it?
  • How are we talking about it?
  • Whats known?
  • Whats new?
  • Whats next?

What are we talking about?
  • Mother tongue
  • The language acquired in early years that has
    become his/her natural instrument of thoughts and
    communication (UNESCO)
  • Early childhood programs
  • Supports for primary caregivers,
  • practitioners in programmes addressing
  • child health, development early learning,
  • children from birth through 8 years of age

Who are we talking about?
  • Some childrens mother tongue is privileged in
    early learning programmes.
  • Other childrens mother tongue is dismissed,
    denied, or given only token support by dominant
    society, cultural institutions, schools, and
  • Language-in-education policies routinely
    contribute to the minoritization of children
    whose mother tongue is not the privileged
  • These are the children were talking about it.

Why are we talking about it?
  • Cultural linguistic endangerment
  • Educational inequities
  • Challenges to implementing mother-tongue based
    early learning programs

How are we talking about it?
  • Various frameworks provide rationales
  • Rights
  • Cultural linguistic endangerment/loss
  • Psycho-social development
  • Participation
  • Education
  • Labour force
  • Civil society

Child rights
  • UNCRC (1989) Article 30 stipulates right of
    Indigenous Peoples to use their own language in
  • UNCRC General Comment 7
  • Young children are holders of all rights
    enshrined in the Convention.
  • Early childhood is a critical period for
    realization of these rights.
  • Early childhood birth through transition to
    school (8 yrs)
  • Programs policies are required to realize
    rights in early childhood
  • Recognize incorporate diversities in culture,
    language, and child rearing.

Parental rights
  • UNCRC Article 29
  • Education of the child shall be directed to
    development of respect for the childs parents,
    and the childs own cultural identity, language
    and values, as well as for the national values of
    the country in which the child is living.
  • (Also Article 5)

Community rights
  • UN Convention and Recommendation against
    Discrimination in Education specifically
    recognizes the right of the members of national
    minorities to carry on their own educational
    activities, includingthe use or the teaching of
    their own language.

Community rights
  • UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging
    to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic
    Minorities (1992, Article 4)
  • Affirms the rights of minorities, including
    Indigenous Peoples, to learn and/or have
    instruction in their mother tongue or heritage

Cultural and linguistic endangerment / loss
  • The worlds repository of language and culture is
    steadily depleted by language-in-education
    policies that impose dominant languages on
    childrens learning journeys.
  • Of 6000 languages spoken globally now,
  • 10-50 will be spoken by 2099.
  • Linguistic genocide (Skutnabb-Kangas)
  • Language loss endangers identity, heritage,
    belonging, cultural knowledges

Psychological development
  • Cultural identity associated with speaking the
    language of ones culture of origin
  • Cultural knowledge embodied in language
  • Belonging within a cultural community that shares
    a language or dialect
  • Inter-generational communication
  • Self-concept who am I? Commonalities with
    ancestors/ Distinctiveness from others
  • Self-esteem proud of who one is special
    competencies associated with family of origin

  • Speech, language literacy enable participation
  • Sense of place value in education, labour
    force, civil society
  • Familiarity with school, work social
  • Civil society rich in diverse linguistic
    cultural competencies
  • Community empowerment

Educational equity
  • UNESCO (1953) encourages mother tongue based
    early learning primary school
  • Children entering unfamiliar learning
    environments in an unfamiliar language
  • a significant contributor to persistent high
    rates of early school non-attendance,
    non-engagement, and failure among minority
    Indigenous children.

Moral imperative
  • Affirming the right of families to support
    childrens learning in their mother language.
  • Affirming the responsibility of the global
    community to protect linguistic and cultural
    diversity and to strengthen languages at risk of
    being lost.

What is known?
  • The dominant language in a society is presented
    to children and families as normative, desired,
    privileged, high status, and, very often, the
    required language of early learning and all
    education programs.
  • For minority language children, this is a
    SUBMERSION approach (a.k.a. Sink or Swim).
  • Subtractive bilingualism second language
    becomes more proficient than mother tongue.

Children do not soak up languages like sponges!
  • Many children grow up speaking more than one
  • But language does not spring forth in full bloom
    during the early years.
  • Language acquisition takes a long time.
  • Outcomes range from conversational fluency to
    academic proficiency.
  • Depends on many factors

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Alternative language-in-education approaches
  • Mother tongue-based programs
  • Bilingual (two-way bilingual) programs
  • Multilingual programs
  • Developmental bilingualism
  • Mother tongue as primary language while second
    language is introduced as a subject of study for
    eventual transition to learning in the second

Alternative approaches contd
  • Bridging Planned transition from one language
    to another
  • Short cut or early exit abrupt transition
    after only 2 or 3 years of school.
  • Late transition or late exit transition
    after child has cognitive academic proficiency in
    first language (CALP)

Maintenance bi/multilingual education
  • After second language is introduced, both first
    and second languages are media of instruction.
  • First language instruction as a medium of
    instruction or subject of study ensures ongoing
    support for academic proficiency in the mother
  • Also called additive bilingual education
    (languages are added but do not displace mother

Tentative conclusions of research (Lightbown,
  • Children can acquire 2 languages in EY
  • Languages dont compete for mental space and
    bilingualism doesnt confuse children.
  • Given adequate inputs opportunities for
    interaction, children can acquire multi-lingual
  • Cognitive advantages of developing proficiency in
    2 languages
  • Early learning is no guarantee of continued
    development or lifelong retention languages can
    be maintained, attenuated, or forgotten

Tentative conclusions of research
  • Late transition is better than short cut
  • While children can learn more than one language,
    whether they develop more than conversational
    fluency about everyday events in a language
    depends on increasingly advanced learning
    opportunities in that language
  • Cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP)
    takes about 6 years of formal education

What about immersion programs?
  • Immersion programs are provided entirely in a
    language that is new to the child.
  • Popular in foreign language instruction and in
    heritage mother tongue revitalization initiatives

Immersion programs for recovering an endangered
  • Heritage mother tongues the living root of
    contemporary identities, regardless of whether
    one speaks the language. (McCarty)

Eskasoni Immersion Program A place to be
  • Indigenous First Nation in Nova Scotia, Canada
  • English or Mikmaq from
  • preschool through
  • secondary school.
  • Indigenous pedagogies
  • academic content
  • 75 of graduates went
  • on to college

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Aha Pu_nana Leo
  • Hawaiian language immersion
  • From 50 to 10,000 speakers in just 20 years
  • Total family commitment
  • Language culture curriculum
  • Hawaiian medium schools tracks within schools
  • English at home, English as a subject of study.
  • (Wilson, Kamana Rawlins)

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Kaugel First Language First program
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Total family commitment
  • Parents generated curriculum resources
  • Availability of highly proficient speakers of the
    heritage mother tongue
  • who have some training and lots of energy to
    work with very young children!

Mudiad Ysgolion Meithrin
  • Welsh-medium programs
  • Nursery, infant-toddler playgroups, preschool
  • Welsh-medium, English-medium, bilingual
    schooling options
  • Second language taught as subject of study
  • Community commitment
  • Government language-in-education policy support
  • Political will funding for childrens and
    parents rights to education in language of choice

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Challenges opportunities
  • Need multi-level commitments
  • Parents to value their home language
  • Aha Pu_nana Leo requires commitment from parents
    to learn the language continue to seek
    schooling for their child in Hawaiian
  • Preschools to see mother tongue as a language
    for school readiness
  • Schools to provide language streams for children
    to continue learning their mother tongue IN
    their mother tongue
  • Government to enshrine childrens right to
    learn in their mother tongue in policies,
    invest in training, employment, curriculum
    development schooling throughout primary school
    in the mother tongue

Training employment
  • Recruit, incentivize, support mother tongue
    speakers as early learning practitioners,
    teachers, advisors
  • Kaugel First Language First Program involved
    parents other community members

Curriculum Resource Development
  • Curriculum is living made meaningful in
    specific cultural linguistic frames of
  • Translation vs. interpretation
  • Cultural mediation is needed to create relevant,
    meaningful learning activities materials
  • Culturally based knowledge is embedded in the
  • Community involvement is vital!

Indigenous pedagogies
  • Not only what is taught but how
  • Multi-literacies (oral, text-based, non-verbal)
  • Computer-mediated learning activities need a
    cultural and pedagogical frame

Whats next?
  1. Need research documentation of learning outcomes
    of alternative mother tongue based EY programs
  2. Raise awareness of parents as childrens first
    language teachers helping parents make informed
    decisions (e.g., Toronto School District DVD
    Value Your Language)
  3. Computer generated curriculum resources developed
    collaboratively by linguistic interpreters,
    cultural mediators, early childhood
    practitioners, community members.
  4. Advocacy with government to set
    language-in-education policies that support
    learning in through childrens mother tongue.

UNESCO online library
  • UNESCO (2008). Mother tongue instruction in early
    childhood education A selected bibliography.
    Paris UNESCO.
  • UNESCO (2010). Educational equity for children
    from diverse backgrounds Mother tongue-based
    bilingual or multilingual education in the early
    years Literature Review. http//