The Importance of Heritage Language Schools


For this week’s episode, we decided to speak with some of the Saturday schools that teach in different languages.

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Each of you is probably learning English and Irish at school. So you can spend time practicing these languages ​​with the help of your teacher. But, for many children whose first language is different, it is not so easy.

Here Soraya Sobrevía from Mother Tongues explains why they are so important.

Mother Tongues is a child-focused organization working for a society that openly embraces different cultures and languages ​​and sees them as useful to society at large. We work with children and parents, as well as the practitioners who support them, including heritage language schools on weekends.

Weekend Heritage Language Schools (also known as Saturday Schools or Complementary Schools) are community settings where children work on their family or minority language. They vary in their approach and can do this by focusing on reading and writing in that language, on school subjects, or on art and drama using the family language. Home language schools usually operate on weekends because during the week children attend mainstream schools.

At Mother Tongues we have witnessed how difficult it is for weekend schools to work so creatively to engage children’s interest in using their home language outside of the home environment.
Why are weekend home groups and schools important?

We know that the most important stage in a child’s language development is early childhood. It is then that children learn to communicate, register and develop attitudes towards their two languages. Heritage language schools do invaluable work not only in strengthening children’s language skills in their home language, but also in making room for this minority language in children’s lives, reinforcing the message that all their languages ​​(and the culture attached to them) have the same importance.

There is evidence to show that a strong first language not only boosts the acquisition of English and any other additional languages, but it also increases a child’s sense of identity and belonging. Being able to have authentic and meaningful conversations with parents and loved ones strengthens the child/family bond and influences the psychosocial well-being of the child and family.

Mother Tongues wants to give visibility to the important work of weekend heritage language schools across our education network.

For more information see mothertongues.ie

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