Mother tongue: UNESCO encourages the use of technology to advance multilingual education

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The mother tongue is the one you learn first, it’s the language you use the most, it’s the language you identify with or the one for which you are considered a native speaker, explains Andriamiseza Noro, Specialist in the education program at UNESCO in an interview with UN News.

For her, we should say the mother tongues because “if I have a dad whose mother tongue is different from that of my mum, I already have two languages ​​and also perhaps in the country where I live, the language used is different than the languages ​​I hear at home, so you could say I have three mother tongues”.

For a child, the mother tongue is one of the first means of translating the meaning of the world and thus it helps him in his development. Indeed, the child expresses himself with the language he hears most often, or which is in his family environment or in society. He communicates and acquires the fundamentals of reading and writing in this language. “So it contributes to his development since it is a language with which he expresses himself,” underlines Ms. Noro. “He learns what is around him, he communicates with those who are around him and it is a language to acquire basic knowledge”.

Finally, the mother tongue also makes it possible to transmit values, culture and traditional knowledge.

The use of technology has the potential to promote linguistic diversity

For Ms. Noro, the strength of new technologies is their interactivity, their fluidity, their flexibility.

Multilingual education based on mother tongue(s) performs a key function in fostering respect for diversity and a sense of interconnectedness between countries and peoples, which are fundamental values ​​at the very heart of global citizenship.

“Technology therefore makes it possible to be in a real situation, which one does not necessarily have with a book or a school manual”, explains the UNESCO expert.

For her, the potential of this technology is its interactivity. “It is to hear the languages ​​as spoken in one region or another”.

She has observed that young people tend to use technology outside of formal education, outside of classrooms. “And I feel like they learn a lot faster with these technologies. So that’s the potential of technology that allows us to be more multilingual and we communicate much faster,” she says.

“And that’s one of the great strengths of technology. Thanks to a lot of software, oral communication is facilitated, something that was not possible 30 years ago, when we were in a language laboratory with really artificial situations,” recalls Ms. Noro.

February 21 is International Mother Language Day.


February 21 is International Mother Language Day.

Promote mother tongue

On the occasion of International Mother Language Day, UNESCO appeals to its Member States to promote the languages ​​that exist in their countries in several areas of the public sphere, such as education, culture but also in the administrative field.

For Ms. Noro, what is important in preventing the extinction or disappearance of a language is intergenerational transmission. It has to be part of raising awareness.

Moreover, the use of languages ​​is essential in education. “So here, we are talking about language policies, teaching languages ​​or teaching in languages”.

There is also the willingness of native speakers to promote their mother tongue themselves. “Because the perception that we often have of our mother tongue is quite biased,” she explains. “We think that when a language is not one of the great languages ​​of this world, we cannot sell ourselves with that language, I mean, we cannot find work. So there is a perception which, I would say, needs to be reviewed, ”she says.

According to her, means, financial resources and techniques are needed to promote mother tongues both in culture and in education or in other fields such as medicine, administration or translation.

“So you have to love the mother tongue, the mother tongues, promote them by speaking them. If we don’t talk about them, promote them in some other way. Ensure that they are used, in as many areas as possible, in culture, reading, writing,” she concludes.

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