Mother-tongue education is the key to multilingualism

12 November 2017

“Denying children education in their first language is holding back communities and development goals.” - The Guardian – speaking up for the mother tongue


Research world wide has found that mother tongue education holds many advantages, not only educationally, but also for psychological, social and cultural development. It is therefore important to master your mother tongue as it will contribute to academic development.

The following statistics released by the Department of Higher Education highlighted why mother tongue education is important:

In a standard exam, many learners preferred writing the exam in English and not their mother tongue. Only half of the learners passed. According to the graph below, the pass rates of learners who wrote in their mother tongue, were significantly higher.


UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) considers mother-tongue education as important, because:

  • Countries that promote mother-tongue education, are generally more prosperous;
  • A multilingual nation benefits from diversity as each language contributes to a shared future;
  • It improves the quality of education, thus UNESCO recommends for mother-tongue education to be continued for as long as possible to promote the academic careers of learners.
  • Those learning in their mother tongue, continue their studies for longer and are more successful than learners who learn in a second language. (A good example is the Germans and Chinese who learn in German and Mandarin respectively. The German economy is one of the strongest in Europe and although very few Chinese can speak or understand English, they are at the forefront of the scientific world.)
  • Also read

Importance of mother-tongue education

”Learning in your mother tongue first is key to success at school and a child educated in his/her original language is more likely to achieve bilingualism and get better results”, says Kyingah Kristy Bang in an article in The National.”

Mother-tongue education:

  • Promotes the development of cognitive, affective and social skills.
  • Fosters critical thinking and literacy skills.
  • Promotes learning, as skills and concepts gained in the learner’s home language don’t have to be re-taught when they learn a second language.
  • Promotes the integration of new knowledge with existing knowledge.
  • Promotes listening and understanding skills and as such strengthens linguistic development, reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  • Enhances the ability to learn other languages, thus multilingualism.
  • Also read

Why multilingualism?

  • It allows participation on many levels.
  • It gives you access to new knowledge, opportunities and experiences.
  • It opens new worlds.
  • It contributes to better understanding of others and makes you more perceptive to different cultures and perspectives.
  • It contributes to success in the workplace and higher intellectual development level.

Also read:

Children learn better in their mother tongue. Read more
How to raise a bilingual child. Read more here
A 2017 study found that multilingualism combats cognitive ageing. Read more here
The advantages of speaking more than one language. Read more here
According to a Canadian study led by Rachel Mayberry of McGill University, the ability to learn a new language is determined by the onset of language experience during early brain development. Read more here

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