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As we celebrate International Mother Language Day, we join others throughout the world in promoting linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. This is an annual observance first announced by UNESCO in 1999 and later recognised by the UN General Assembly.

What is our Mother Language or Mother Tongue?

Mother Tongue or First Language or Home Language are all terms used for the language that is acquired from birth or the language to which the person has the most positive attitude and affection. A child will become bilingual or multilingual if they know, understand and use two or more languages. If children know their mother tongue well, it will help them learn English. When they understand an idea in their mother tongue, they can easily pick up the English word.

Bringing up a child in a bilingual or multilingual home has its challenges but also many rewards.

Three common misconceptions about bringing up a bilingual child:


  1. Parents should only use English at home

It is important for parents to use the language they know and feel comfortable in. A child benefits from learning a language from their parents if parents are confident in that language. A child who develops good use of their mother tongue is more likely to develop good English. But if parents use English instead, children will lose their mother tongue. Neither language will progress and the child can have problems in both languages.

  1. Learning two languages will confuse your child

Bilingual children use their two languages and often move from one language to another. The child is not confused but simply making use of all the language they have. This is called ‘code-switching’ or translanguaging’ and is part of ‘normal’ development.

  1. Bilingual children start to speak later than monolingual children

Two languages may not develop at the same rate and children vary considerably in the speed of their language development. There is no evidence that bilingual children learn to speak later. Some children, whether bilingual or monolingual, learn to speak later than others.

The decision to bring up your child to be bilingual will affect the rest of their lives and the lives of your family.

I wish you every success as we celebrate International Mother Language Day.

Dr Rose Drury

Dr Rose is an Early Years Education Consultant with considerable expertise as a teacher, researcher and academic in the field of early bilingualism. She is passionate about supporting parents and giving you the resources you might need to bring up your child as a bilingual or multilingual speaker.


Here is the outline for a popular talk that Dr Rose can deliver at your place of work