International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is celebrated globally on the 21st of February each year. This year there are events across South Africa’s provinces that highlight the benefits and revel in the joy of using one’s mother language.
Dr Connie Makgabo, our SAALT secretary, will speak on the value of one’s mother language today. As a lecturer of teaching methodology in African languages at the University of Pretoria, she is uniquely positioned to share insights on why and how mother language education can set a child up for success. She will be speaking at an event organised by the Pan South African Language Board’s (PanSALB) Gauteng Provincial Committee.
“We are involved in promoting the awareness of the importance of mother tongue use because with the knowledge of a mother tongue, one feels grounded and is able to learn other languages.”
We sat down with Dr Makgabo to learn more about the significance of IMLD and her involvement in Gauteng’s celebrations that kick off on 18 February.
What will you be doing at the IMLD event of PanSALB Gauteng?
My role is to explain to the attendees what the purpose of the day is. The International Mother Language Day is designed to affirm the value and continuing relevance of mother languages in South Africa. Not only do they hold cultural and historical knowledge, they hold value in reversing the dominance of colonial languages and they are able to affirmi one’s identity.
One’s mother tongue is the language that one learns in childhood, one’s first language, the identification language, the background language or domestic language. One can name it the figure language or the language that one grew up with; one’s local language. Mother tongue always references the language that the child has used from birth for important and impacting times in the child’s life (Desai 2012). What mother tongue means to a child, includes more than simply language because it consists of the child’s personal, social and cultural identity.
This year’s IMLD is particularly concerned with the need to enhance the possibilities of the multilingual classroom. It builds on the research that has shown how important it is for children to learn in their home language while also recognising that we live in a multilingual context. It thus joins in the call for more language supported learning so that children who have to make the change to English in Grade 4 have the necessary assistance and support. In the multilingual classroom children who need to continue their studies in English can be supported through the multilingual classroom where concepts are also explained using the mother tongue and where children can be encouraged to use their own languages in making concepts familiar to themselves.
How could “regular South Africans” celebrate IMLD this year?
Use your mother language! And find out a little more about someone else’s mother language. Learn about the music, dances or cuisine that symbolise a specific language. You could also learn a language you do not know or brush up on one you do not know all that well.