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SIL joins annual observance of International Mother Language Day

(February 2012) SIL joins with communities worldwide in the annual observance of International Mother Language Day on 21 February. Designated by UNESCO as a day to recognize the value of every language, this year’s theme places a special focus on mother tongue-based multilingual education (MLE).

Children from many of the world’s ethnolinguistic communities struggle to access basic education because instruction is not available in their mother tongue. The extra challenge of learning to read and write in a language other than that spoken at home proves an insurmountable obstacle for many students and consequently a factor in cycles of poverty and marginalization.

Studies demonstrate that learning is most effective when instruction is received in the language the learner knows best. In multilingual education programs that start with the mother tongue, teachers provide instruction in the students’ own language and introduce the official language as a classroom subject during the early grades. As students gain skill in understanding, speaking, reading and writing the language of education, teachers transition to using that language for instruction. This instructional bridge between the community language and language of wider communication enables learners to meet their broader multilingual goals while retaining their own language and culture.

As an international advocate for ethnolinguistic minority language speakers, SIL is dedicated to supporting ethnic minority peoples worldwide in their efforts to preserve their languages and cultural identities in the 21st century.

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