Education: Multilingualism

Personal contributions came from different presenters on their own experiences of multilingualism.

The need to learn the first language (mother tongue) was highlighted as crucial for a person’s sense of identity and for long-term re-entry prospects.

There is a danger of semi-lingualism where a person has a working knowledge of more than one language for everyday conversation, but does not have sufficient skills in any one language for further academic study. This danger is exaggerated when there are multiple changes of educational language during childhood. The goal is to study in a way that allows additive bilingualism, where the skills learned in each language enhance knowledge of the other as well as the ability to master new languages and improve general learning skills.

The recommendations of Eurotck 2007 were reiterated. Agencies, families and international schools need to work together to ensure that children master the first language as well as the main educational language of the schools they attend. Agency staff need to provide guidance and good resources to help parents and their children achieve this goal. An important facet of this is good long-term planning that avoids mutiple moves that require a shift in the language of education, especially beyond the age of 11/12.


Gill Cheffy (SIL)

Angelika Jentzsch (MK Care Germany)

Mirjam McWhinnie (WEC Switzerland)

Belinda Ng (SIM International)

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