Mother Tongue Development and Multilingualism in the Middle School

  • Middle School
Mother Tongue Development and Multilingualism in the Middle School
Douglas Brittain

The Seisen International School Language Policy states that:

  • We recognize that Seisen’s language policy must reflect the school’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and anti-racism.
  • We view language as the center of the many interdependent cognitive, affective, and social factors that shape learning.
  • Language is the major connecting element across the curriculum and transcends all subject areas. It is an essential vehicle for inquiry and the construction of meaning.
  • At SIS, the role of language is valued as central to developing critical thinking, which is essential for the cultivation of intercultural awareness, international-mindedness and global citizenship. 
  • The deep relationships between language, identity, culture and power have an impact on teaching and learning. 
  • We believe that multilingualism enriches personal growth and facilitates international understanding.

As part of our "Mother Language Week" Middle School students were invited to spend time reflecting on their "Language Journey".

Step 1: Reflect 

  • Do you consider yourself to be monolingual, bilingual or multilingual?
  • I consider myself to be...
  • Would you describe yourself as “balanced” in ability and use of 2 or more languages?
  • Ex: My Korean is stronger than my English.
  • What languages do you think in?  Does this change in different contexts? (Ex. home/school, Math/PE, play/home?)
  • In what language(s) do you dream?
  • In what language do you problem solve? Daydream etc?

Step 2: Write a short reflection

For example:
“In my lifetime, I have experienced Spanish, German, Arabic, Ga, and Japanese.  I’m technically monolingual, since I only speak English fluently, but I can hold a basic conversation and read for fun in German.”

Step 3: Make a My Language Journey Poster

Consider including the following:

  • Where were you born?
  • When did you start to speak?
  • When did you start to read/write?  Which language?
  • When did you start learning your mother tongue? What is your mother tongue(s)?
  • When/where did you start elementary school?  What language was used? What languages were taught as additional languages?
  • When did you learn your additional languages (s)? What languages did you learn?
  • Do you speak the language of math? Music? Sign Language?
  • Consider ways your languages have added to your life - explain some.

All languages spoken by homeroom students should be recorded. For example:

  • A bar graph of languages spoken.
  • Graph numbers of monolingual, bilingual and multilingual speakers.
  • Visuals of countries or flags where the language is spoken.

Other items to consider as you inform us about your homeroom:

  • Why is mother tongue development central to personal well-being?
  • How can multilingualism encourage global mindedness (i.e. knowledge of others, global events, inclusive histories, recognition contributions to the globe’s knowledge, etc.)?
  • How can multilingualism enable more powerful learning?
  • Does multilingualism open up potentials for better interacting with the ‘other’ - their culture, attitudes, communication, etc.?
  • To what extent do mother tongue development and multilingualism make your life richer/more enjoyable?

Below are the poster that was chosen as the winner as well as each of the Middle School homeroom Language Journeys.

See the High School Language Journey posters.

Language poster


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