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Feb 25 2022


Grady Singleton

Happy International Mother Language Day! Multilingual language learning is an important way to celebrate different cultures, promote diversity, and develop sustainable societies. BCIS is happy to celebrate such an important day, and the festivities have turned into two weeks of multilingual learning experiences for our students, celebrating all of the wonderful languages that can be heard around our school. "At BCIS, we value all languages and their cultural contexts, and encourage our students to achieve multilingualism," explains Denise, our SS EAL team leader. For Mother Language Week, our students engaged in a variety of in-class activities that allowed them to explore their interests in many other languages and use what they learned to communicate with their friends and families.


Observed worldwide on February 21st since 2000, UNESCO's International Mother Language Day is especially important at international schools focused on global mindedness. The theme of this year's celebration was "Using technology for multilingual learning: challenges and opportunities". This theme was evident in the classrooms around BCIS, as students used the wonderful classroom technology such as iPads to explore languages of their choice. While BCIS's primary language of instruction is English, and our school's own mother language is Chinese, dozens of other languages could be heard flowing out of the classrooms as students investigated a wide range of cultures.


Student activities for Mother Language Week were as diverse as the languages themselves. Learners in all grades explored cultures, names, untranslatable words, songs, foods, games, and more. Grade 3 Class 3C created their own multilingual song, and performed it together, expertly incorporating both English and Spanish into the lyrics. Our teachers shared their own diverse backgrounds and cultures with the students, and our community was able to learn more about each other and grow together. For example, our Grade 3 EAL teacher, Francoise, was able to share French with her students through stories. "Reading to students in my mother language has been such a fulfilling and enriching experience for both myself and BCIS students. Sharing one's mother language is a very personal experience and most importantly, students are exposed to a language they might not otherwise hear," she explains. BCIS believes that the diversity in our community makes us stronger and giving our students time to learn from and engage with their own teachers and peers is important.


Our exceptional EAL team provides no shortage of amazing learning experiences for our students and supports them throughout their whole educational journey from the ECC to the SS. Mother Language Week is a great opportunity to provide students with language strategies that will help them learn and grow. One such strategy is translanguaging. Our ES EAL team describes this strategy, saying, "Translanguaging is a beneficial strategy for language learners that allows students to use the language(s) that they already know (their linguistic repertoire) to understand new concepts or words in the language they are learning." Translanguaging took place in all the classrooms during Mother Language Week, as brave students were able to realize that they did understand concepts in new languages!


Language learning is a core concept of BCIS's commitment to empower students to act for the sustainable development of the world. "Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as 1 language becomes extinct every 2 weeks," explains Elizabeth, our ES EAL team leader. Language learning is at the heart of cultural sustainability, which is why activities such as Mother Language Day are so important. Furthermore, the skills students learn from such activities will continue to inspire them in their future learning, no matter what languages they choose to pursue. Our alumni, Yasmine (Class of 2018), who is now studying linguistics at the University of California, Berkley, provides a great example of how such activities can inspire lifelong learning. "[At BCIS] I was able to learn Mandarin in an immersive environment and had amazing instruction in Mandarin language without it hindering my acquisition of strong English writing skills. I was very lucky to have the ability to learn in both languages, and I think that is one of the reasons I became a student of linguistics," she explains. BCIS's rich language learning environment sets students up for future success and empowers them to be lifelong learners of language and culture.