Significance of mother tongue maintenance

By Nguyen Thao Nguyen

Many people who living abroad from their homeland and teach their kids their mother tongue just purely wish they can communicate well in the language when they grow up. Parents mostly think about linguistic benefit while maintaining mother tongue, that leaning more languages can be useful in the future. Indeed, “mother tongues and cultures play an important role in forming students’ identity, which helps them know who they are and understand their historical roots and cultural continuity”. Yet, bilingualism or multilingualism have influences on children more than that. 

There are many aspects to discuss about mother tongue maintenance: What does that really mean? How to do that? When or at which age we can start? Until when kids need to maintain with support from parents? 

In the scope of this article, we want to focus on the basic concern first: Why does it it matter for people to dedicate time on a language that may not be used often in daily life?

Why is it important to maintain mother tongues for our children?

1. Psychological benefits of mother tongue

A significant number of studies have evidenced a connection between heritage language preservation and the psychological welfare of students. 

This maintenance supports children’s social-emotional and identity development and increases their self-esteem. This point is more relevant for students who are newcomers to a host country. When their home languages are used at school or in their classrooms, the degree of language and culture shock they are encountering reduces, as a result, they feel validated and feel more belonging to the new society. 

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Moreover, since the ability of switching between two languages and identities according to the context, bilingual children have skills managing stressors and  by accessing resources from both cultural systems, also, they tend to suffer less stress and anxiety.

2. Cognitive benefits while maintaining bilingualism

Bilingualism benefits students’ cognitive skills by expanding and enriching abilities related to thinking and reasoning. This point is explained by the ways children use different languages to show their thinkings, perceptions and solutions of real situations. When being exposed and fluent in more than one language, children are trained to be more flexible in thinking and solving problems. Consequently, this contributes to the academic achievement of children afterward since those skills play a vital role for children to gain important knowledge of all subjects at school. 

3. Social and cultural benefits

In fact, the lack of proficiency in mother tongues might cause intergenerational conflicts between children and other family members since children might get irritated when being not able to communicate smoothly with others, as a result, family relationships become weakened. On the other hand, when parents and children speak the same language, it helps the interaction between the two sides become more meaningful. For example, when parents share their valuable learning experiences, children will feel closer and understand their parents more, thus, the generation gaps can be shortened. Besides, while learning a second language, children are struggling to develop personal relationships, thus support from family members is necessary to help them go through the journey.

Additionally, becoming fluent in their mother tongues, children can help their parents get more information related to their events, activities, learning at school, messages from teachers by translation, so that, the relationships not only between parents and children but also between families and schools and society become closer. Thanks to conversations among family members, children’s cultural growth also is contributed since cultural traditions and values and family knowledge are all passed on through the heritage language.

4. Linguistic benefits

Research has shown that a strong linguistic foundation in mother tongues will contribute to greater proficiency in the host language since “conceptual elements, metacognitive and metalinguistic strategies, pragmatic aspects of language use, specific linguistic elements and phonological awareness have all been shown to be transferable from one language to another”. Additionally, necessary skills of literacy are developed easily during the time children’s mother tongues are built up. Therefore, when children are masters in their mother tongues, the development of their host languages is facilitated.

5. Learning benefits of learning mother tongue

Several studies have found that there is a relationship between proficiency in home languages and learning achievements. Indeed, the crucial processes of learning such as cognition, thinking, and so on, are developed when children approach more than one language. Scientists also show that, for example, there is no direct link between the amount of time spent in English instruction and academic accomplishment in English for learners, meanwhile, there is a correlation between time spent in home languages and learning outcomes in English. This means that the more fluent children are in their mother tongues, the more successful they get in their learning at school. 

The correlation between bilingualism and the high learning performance for children also can be explained by the impact of emerging in mother tongues frequently, for example, reading in mother tongues will broaden knowledge of the world, on learning new concepts for children. In simple words, the information children gain in their home language helps them be ready to learn other languages as the time for them to understand new contents in host languages becomes shorter.

Bilingual kids – Image source: internet

6. Employment-related benefits

Nowadays, there are more and more international companies in which speaking more than one language is a requirement. To be more competitive, it is necessary to communicate in different languages. Thus, in most European countries, schools organize foreign language classes for students from the elementary age group or English is taught in more than one hundred countries around the world. It shows the relevance of learning more than one language in modern society currently. As a bilingual, a person can get more chances to be employed because of their multi-language skills. 

Moreover, as a society becomes more multicultural, it is essential for children to learn how to function well in different contexts. In this respect, bilingualism is a beneficial tool for children since the ability to be flexible and adaptable is developed through the process of learning different languages. These qualities are profound for children to work well in different environments that are required in most companies nowadays. 

According to what was presented above, we have to agree that it is important to maintain mother tongues for children. However, there are difficulties that parents have to cope with and which ways parents can implement to maintain mother tongues for their children. These questions will be answered in the second part of the blog  from BiziVietnam next month.

References:

Bouko, C., Carton, J., Limacher-Riebold, U., O’Malley, M.-P., & Rosenback, R. (n.d.). Practical guide for parents with ready-to-use activities. 128.

Brown, C. L. (2011). Maintaining heritage language: Perspectives of Korean parents. Multicultural Education, 19(1), 31-37.

Nguyen, T. M. P., & Lê, Q. (n.d.). AN INVESTIGATION OF INDIVIDUAL NETWORKS OF LINGUISTIC CONTACT AMONG VIETNAMESE ORIGIN CHILDREN IN AUSTRALIA. 12.

Vallance, A. L. (n.d.). The Importance of Maintaining a Heritage Language while Acquiring the Host Language. 42.

How to maintain Vietnamese for kids in Finland

To contribute to the mother tongue maintenance for Vietnamese kids in Finland, BiziVietnam organizes Vietnamese language classes and extracurricular on weekends. 

  • Language Classes

The variety of contents and learning activities on Saturday will support children to practice Vietnamese with teachers as well as their peers.

  • Weekly Hobbies Clubs

On Sunday, there are different extracurricular activities such as art, singing, playing games, speaking which are expected to generate an entertaining and connective space in which family members will be closer to each other as well as have opportunities to approach Vietnamese values.

  • Monthly Vietnamese Journal

Every month, we send an exclusive material named “Tieng Viet Vui” – a Vietnamese Bulletin to families and kids to read and learn about Vietnamese language and culture together. 

  • Find suitable learning materials for kids

Becoming a member of BiziVietnam, each family will receive different discounts from our partners. Join us to maintain language and culture for your children. 

About BiziVietnam
BiziVietnam is the first ever non-profit organisation in Finland dedicated to empowering cultural connections and strengthening the Vietnamese cultural footprint in locals, internationals and Vietnamese people in Finland; along with promoting cooperation opportunities between Finland and Vietnam. Follow us on Social Media for the latest news and upcoming events. 

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Glorious Kgalalelo Bolokwe

    I learn a lot from what Vietnamese are doing to respect and love themselves. They encourage peace love and development.

    1. dohang

      Thank you for your kind comment.

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