5 Ways You Can Teach Your Kids Their ‘Mother Tounge’ and Where To Get Help

Article by Maureen Kasuku
Posted: February 18, 2020

Did you know that 21st February is International Mother Language day? International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is a worldwide annual observance held on 21 February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to promote multilingualism.

First announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999, it was formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly with the adoption of UN resolution 56/262 Multilingualism in 2002.

Mother Language Day is part of a broader initiative “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world” as adopted by the UN General Assembly on May 16, 2007.

Mother Tounge is defined as the language that a person has been exposed to from birth or within the critical period. In some countries, the term native language or mother tongue refers to the language of one’s ethnic group rather than one’s first language.

In Kenya, African indigenous languages are considered as mother tounges. Due to urbanization and intermarriages (and I’m not saying this is a bad thing), many Kenyan kids can only speak in either English or Kiswahili.

Hey, It’s advantageous to be multilingual and learning how to speak mother tongue helps the next generation preserve their culture and heritage.

Here are 5 Ways to Help Kids Speak their Mother Tounge

  1. Early and consistent exposure – Since the mother tongue is the first language of your child (ideally), the easiest way to get him started on his learning is by freely speaking your native language around him at home.
  2. Cultural folk tales – Narrating cultural folk tales and mythological stories in your mother tongue not only develops your child’s oral and vocabulary skills, but also inculcates cultural values in them. Traditionally, this role was taken by the grandparents. However, with increasing number of nuclear households, parents need to make an effort to fill this gap in their child’s life by telling them stories.
  3. Reading material – Providing children access to reading material in their mother tongue is also essential for developing their reading and writing skills. It is important that your child has access to this material even when he isn’t being actively taught reading and writing. Mere visual exposure to the print language helps him form an intuitive relationship between the spoken and written language. A variety of children’s magazines, comics and storybooks can be used for this purpose.
  4. Audio-visual content – Watching TV serials or cartoons in your native language and exposing your child to music in your mother tongue not only builds her vocabulary but also gives her an idea of the ways in which different messages can be conveyed using one language like voice modulation, tonality and pronunciation. It is, however, necessary for you to monitor the audio-visual content you are exposing him to. The audio-visual content must thus be simple and give him an exposure to the language’s vocabulary.
  5. Creative expression – Because of the insistence on learning English, children are often discouraged from expressing their thoughts and ideas in their mother tongue. Such initial stifling of their creative output manifests as a mental block later on in their scholastic life. Encouraging your child to employ her native language for spoken or written creative expression is extremely important. Not only does this build her reading and writing skills, but it also helps in improving her critical thinking skills. Getting children to narrate or write little poems or stories or encouraging them to participate in dramatic activities in their mother tongue are all different ways in which effective learning can be achieved.


      Where To Get Extra Help


About the author

Maureen Kasuku


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