Native language instruction for immigrants

Significance of mother tongue

Every child has the right to his/her own mother tongue and culture. For a pupil the mother tongue is the language of thinking and emotions and part of the formation of his/her identity. It is a means of preserving and transmitting culture. Command of the mother tongue supports the pupil's interacting in his/her own language community. It is needed both in the day-to-day communication between family members and friends and in keeping in touch with relatives and friends living elsewhere.

Adequate command of the mother tongue also supports the involvement of a young, maturing person in the community life of the country of his/her origin, handling of official matters and participating in cultural services.

Command of the mother tongue is helpful in following e.g. the media from various parts of the world.

The pupil is able to see matters from new viewpoints when getting to understand the opinions of different parties to an issue, thus developing his/her thinking skills.

It is possible for the pupil to learn to understand the complexity of matters and to form his/her own views.

The personnel working in the school must provide sufficient information to the guardians on the significance and effect of the mother tongue, and on matters concerning the development of the pupil's language skills and learning. It is recommendable to plan and follow up, together with the guardians, the pupil's native language studies and the development of his/her native language skills. Keeping up and developing the pupil's native language skills also support his/her Finnish studies. Should the native language skills discontinue to develop, soon the pupil may find him/herself having poor skills in both languages.

Research has also shown that bilingualism facilitates studying foreign languages. The thinking of bilingual persons is creative and flexible, supporting the learning of vocabularies and concepts of  other school subjects too, thus enhancing the pupil's possibilities to study in full all subjects of basic education.