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Celebrating International Mother Language Day:

by | Feb 21, 2023 | News, Schools

The importance of teaching children to read in their Mother Tongue.

Over 750 000 learners a year start school not being taught their basic literacy and numeracy skills in their mother tongues. Not only does this set them back approximately six years academically, it also affects the child socially and culturally. Reading is a social skill. You bring to it what you know about the world around you, the words you already know. You look to see yourself in what you are reading. If a child is not taught how to read in the language that they speak at home, all of these elements are lost. Research shows that these children lose connection with their cultural identity over time. The additional language becomes dominant over the mother tongue and these learners never become proficient in the language that forms the verbal identity of their culture.

Every 5 years our Grade 4 learners take part in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) that successfully tracks the progress that we are making when it comes to reading comprehension skills. PIRLS found that 78% of 10-year-olds in South Africa cannot understand what they have read. One of the reasons contributing to this is that parents ask that their Grade 1 child be taught in English rather than in their mother tongue.

To bridge this gap, we developed the Oxford First Bilingual Dictionary (2nd edition) which is available in six of South Africa’s most widely spoken languages – English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sesotho sa Leboa, and Setswana – providing an indispensable tool for parents and teachers to help children comfortably learn a new language while also maintaining a connection to their cultural identity.

The dictionary features themed double-page spreads that supply high-frequency vocabulary, colourful illustrations, and relatable characters that keep children engaged while building self-confidence in speaking a new language. 

The Oxford First Bilingual Dictionary 2nd editions are available from www.oxford.co.za.

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