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At ASH We Celebrate our Mother Tongues

International Mother Tongue Day is a UN-designated day to promote linguistic, cultural diversity and multilingualism. We were excited to celebrate it recently here at ASH!

The Early Childhood Center celebrated Mother Tongue Day by recognizing the many languages of our students. We believe that our languages make us truly special and unique. Our celebration spanned the entire week as classes participated in various activities: greeting each other and teaching words in their home languages, sharing home language books and stories and sharing their languages on a graffiti wall! It was a wonderful week and we look forward to next year.

The Upper Elementary celebrated Mother Tongue by having guest readers come to their classrooms to read books in languages other than English. Grade 2 Classes had Erin and Laura from ERD come and read in German (Erin) and in Catalan (Laura) to Grade 2B and 2D. It was an interesting experience for the children to hear a story in a language they didn't entirely understand, even though they all greatly enjoyed hearing the stories!

In Grades 3 and 4 students brought in books from their home countries, wrote short pieces and sentences in their first language and taught their classmates words in their Mother Tongue. The morning calendar time was done in our mother languages and older students taught their classmates about their alphabet (Hebrew and Arabic, etc.).

There were several fun Mother Language activities that took place in Middle School this week too. In advisories, the Middle School took part in a Multilingual ‘Let It Go’ challenge. Students tried to identify as many languages as they could in the song. They learned very quickly that the more multicultural your group was, the better chance you had! How many can YOU identify?

Also in the Middle School, the fantastic new ‘Global Room’ officially opened which has books in many different languages, books about learning languages and about different countries and cultures. Our Librarian, Michele Velthuizen, would love to build up this home language books collection, so if you know of a popular title/series in your language, please let her know and send her an email.

In Grade 5 English as an Additional Language (EAL) class we had a lot of fun with Kahoot Quizzes about languages and Tongue Twisters, first in English and then we shared our own language tongue twisters. In our Grade 6 EAL class students made a video to promote Mother Language Day and to celebrate the benefits of being bilingual. This video was shown during the Color House Assembly and some of the responses to the video were:
  • “It made me feel emotional because it had an impact. I felt glad that I was bilingual because speaking more than one language is special.”
  • “The video made me feel smart because it told me that you can do more things if you are bilingual.”
  • “I think people that only speak one language would want to be bilingual after they saw that today.”
  • “I felt special because we can be proud of our languages and not many people speak Hebrew.”
  • “It made me feel proud when people talked about how they were proud of their languages and it made me proud of mine.”
In Grade 7 EAL class, students and teachers learned to greet people in several home languages (Arabic, Korean, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Irish and Bahasa Malay). Similarities, differences, and how this impacts learning the language were topics discussed (Learning Malay, Learning Korean, Learning Italian). In addition, students created word clouds in different languages on topics related to being a language-learner. They posted these around the school to remind everyone we are all multilingual learners.

During English Essentials class in Grade 7, students learned about the 'spoken word', poetry and communicating with our voices. Students presented works by poets from their home cultures, in both their home language and in English. The poetry recital took place in the ASH Middle School Library, in the recently opened Global Room, where our cultural and linguistic diversity is honored. Parents and students from grade 5 EAL joined us in celebrating the spoken word of our many cultures: Arabic, French, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish.

These linguistic discussions and activities didn’t only take place during language class. In IT class, students wrote down their name and greeting from their country on a card so Mr Wisken, IT teacher, could greet them in their language. Another example of how this mother language week transcended to other school dimensions was during Art class. In Art class students wrote some of the important vocabulary that was used during class in their different languages. The students loved learning how other languages are written (especially Hebrew and Japanese). Pedro discovered that Matan wrote from right to left and was fascinated!

As for our students in the High School, they also took part in this week’s activities. They were challenged in the morning with a survey about our multilingual school and in the afternoon, they found out the unanticipated answers to the survey. Information taken from the Language Profile Survey that almost all of the High School students took, showed the following results:
  • In the ASH High School we speak 39 different languages, from Afrikaans, Armenian, Bengali and Catalan to Turkish, Urdu, Yoruba and Zulu.
  • Only 38% of us have English as our mother tongue or home language.
  • 23% of us learned English after the age of 7.
  • 42% have been in EAL class.
  • 65% also say that home languages should receive greater visibility in and out of the classroom.
  • Less than 70% of us say they are completely comfortable writing academic English: essays, reports, research papers, presentations, personal statements.
  • 169 said they might or would definitely sign up for an academic writing support class if it were offered at ASH.
A new academic writing course called Writing Workshop is being offered, which is specifically designed for non-native English speakers. Students interested in learning more about this class, can refer to their English teacher.

Thank you for bringing your languages into ASH and helping to make this school even more international!
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University preparatory program for ages 3-18. Fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

American School of The Hague