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Importance of the Mother Tongue

"Seeing to it that a youngster grows up believing not just in the here and now but also in the grand maybes of life guarantees that some small yet crucial part of him remains forever a child."
–Anne Cassidy


This fall, Wayne Eastman from the College of the North Atlantic in Newfoundland traveled to Nepal to work with Kishor Shrestha on a project funded by the Networking Fund of the World Forum on Early Care and Education. One result of this project was the publication of the first Journal of Early Childhood Development in Nepal (edited by Wayne and Kishor). In one article in this journal Radha Krishna Joshi discusses the teaching of the mother tongue in Nepal schools:

"A child learns his mother tongue by listening to his mother and other family members and in response he expresses his feelings and ideas by speaking to them. Listening and speaking is the first step for the beginners to learn a language. Once he is able to listen and speak in his mother tongue he will be on the way to read and write it. This is a natural way to learn a language. Contrary to this principle, a child of 3 years old in the pre-primary schools of Nepal is taught to read and write the English alphabet and words without any practices of listening and speaking in the English language. At the age of 3, a child can not even read and write his/her mother tongue. Under this condition how can one expect a child to learn English? A child cannot develop his in-born qualities if he is forced to read and write at an age of three. A child at this age is not mature enough to coordinate his hand with his eyes. Teaching him to read and write at the age of 3 is not only wasting time but also deteriorating the originality and creativity of the children. Generally, children at the age of 5 or 6 will be ready to learn reading and writing skills in their own language. English should be introduced only after the children are able to think, read, and write in terms of their own language."

For more thoughts on language acquisition, check out the Beginnings Workshop, "Bilingual Education" at

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