Yesterday’s wonderful interactions during mother tongue day provoked me to reflect on the value of multilingualism. Thank you so much to everyone who volunteered to make this a great cultural sharing day. Children really enjoyed the read alouds and stories that were shared, and it demonstrates the depth of resource that we have in our inclusive and caring community.


‘IB schools are committed to multilingualism as a means of affirming cultural identity and developing international-mindedness. The term “multilingualism” in the PYP refers to linguistic ability in more than one language, and recognizes that each of a student’s languages may be developed to different levels, and within different contexts, depending on their social and academic experiences.

In addition, multilingualism has cognitive benefits relating to:

  • attention and focus

  • problem-solving thinking skills

  • thinking about language.

(Kessler, Quinn 1980; Zelasko, Antunez 2000)

Students who are multilingual:

  • have an improved capacity to think, talk and reflect on how languages work
  • become cognitively more flexible, creative and better at problem-solving.

‘Students who see and hear their own languages within the learning environment, and who are encouraged to actively make links to their prior linguistic experiences, connect more quickly to the community and their own learning’ (Cummins 2000).’

source From Principles to Practice: Learning and Teaching

This article may give you more insights into the process


Children and languages

As parents of bilingual and multilingual children, it is important that you support home language development.

Children need to cognitively process and develop vocabulary in their home language.

This aids language development and academic progress. Have regular conversations that require cognitive processing about:

  • concepts being learned at schools
  • books, films, other cultural experiences
  • travel
  • leisure activities such as sports, arts and games

Unite for Literacy offers read alouds in languages such as Korean, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and multiple European languages, which can be useful to listen to while looking at the book, and then having discussions in the language using the vocabulary experienced.

 Additionally, teach rhymes and games in your home language, and listen to popular music. Involve children in preparing food, discussing the process and the tastes and smells. This will help your child develop language structure and vocabulary in their home language, which research shows us, impacts their ability to process in target instructional languages.

It is wonderful to see some of our children taking self directed action at home and creating resources to share in class using dual language.


Children need to read regularly in their home language as well as the target instructional language (in our case English)

Regular reading time, both independent and shared, is one of the most powerful ways of supporting language development. Some studies show that reading develops vocabulary up to 10 x as much as oral language exchange. Parent read aloud such as we had yesterday, and shared reading,

 It may feel challenging to source appropriate reading material, but there are a developing range of online resources which can help. Trilingual mama which is a great blog to follow, has collated a lot of ebook resources in this one post: online stories for children.

Our library at KIS would love to develop a stronger collection of books in different languages, so when your children outgrow books, consider donating them so that others may benefit. This is a wonderful sustainable action we can all take to expand understanding within our diverse community.

Have fun exploring and developing your multilingual skills with your children.  And I look forward to more cultural sharing throughout the year!

Kirsten Durward

PYP Coordinator


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