“Mother Tongue Maintenance and Second Language Sustenance:
A Two-Way Language Teaching Method”
Upon reading the “Mother Tongue Maintenance and Second Language Sustenance: A Two-Way Language Teaching Method”,– under ESP subject in my doctorate studies, I was interested to attend the Second Philippine Workshop on Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education: Venue : Iloilo City (the site of the Aguilar Vernacular Education Experiment in 1948)
Date: February 16-18, 2012 (coinciding with the International Mother Language Day).
However, I could not squeeze on another time to accommodate the workshop for there are numerous tasks I need to get done juggling my teaching job and my undertakings as a post-graduate student at UB.
English as a medium of instruction is a form of colonial mentality. We ought to use our local dialects and languages instead because — it is claimed — scientific studies have shown the benefits of mother tongue based instruction, especially in early schooling. We learn best in our mother tongue. To be sure, the state should be in the business of looking for the best way to effectively transmit knowledge in its education system. But studies across the board show that the mother tongue is the best conveyor of instruction. To some extent, the Gullas bill recognizes the above. It gives schools the option to use English, Filipino or the regional language as the teaching language from pre-school up to Grade 3. But from the intermediate grades up to high school, English will be the teaching language, except in Filipino as a course.
Based on the paper, Language Class should invest in teaching not only the grammar of a second language but it should be concerned with preserving and refining the grammar of the mother tongue as well. Focusing on the different aspects of the second language may result in the student’s losing interest in the mother tongue, having difficulty translating the meanings of the L2 words into the mother tongue, and ignorance of the fact that similar language rules and aspects to accelerate the acquisition of the second language.
Based on the growing body of evidence, it is believed that learners “with strong mother tongue, and those who continue to develop, are far more successful in learning and functioning in another target language” (ISPP, 2009). Many times L2 learners do not seem to adequately learn the grammar taught in class without comparing it to the grammar of their mother tongue which is, after all, their only point of reference.
As it is mentioned above, the topic of “first language interference/transference” has had an unusual history in second language acquisition research and practice. Krashen (1982) argues that acquired language leads to fluent communication and learning cannot lead to acquisition (qtd. In Lightbrown & Spada, 1999, p.38).On the contrary, in the second language acquisition, learning happens first and then acquisition which leads to fluency.
According to the paper, studies have shown that, in many cases, instruction in the mother tongue is beneficial to language competencies in the first language, achievement in other subject areas, and second language learning. The five subjects of the Basic Education Curriculum–English, Pilipino, Math, Science and Makabayan–and how they each may be taught is what ought to determine what language we use to teach them in, write textbooks for them, and conduct examinations and classroom work in them.
Let me tackle the possible advantages and disadvantages of using mother tongue. Mother tongue or the language used at home is the most effective medium of learning.
Educators say that when the use of mother tongue is discarded in favor of an unfamiliar language upon the children’s entry into grade school, the learners lose interest in their studies because there is a disconnect in the language used at home and in school.
On the other hand, sometimes the mother tongue may be an unwritten language; the appropriate terminology for education purposes may still have to be developed; there may be a shortage of educational materials in the language; there may be a lack of appropriately trained teachers and there may be resistance to schooling in the mother tongue by the students, parents and teachers.
To a lesser or higher degree, there are always advantages and disadvantages on the use of mother tongue. I can’t forget the analogy of my mother about the education before and the contemporary. Unlike before when they are taught in mother tongue for the first grade until fifth grade, the teaching and learning process is fruitful, dynamic and effective. Now, as her grandson is being taught in English as a medium of instruction the moment he entered school, she can see that this method of teaching is not yet effective unless implemented at the right time, place and pace of learning of the students. In this way, this is a call for all teachers to maintain mother tongue at the same time sustain the second language. Students should maintain the mother tongue for it is the heart of their language as well as culture and identity. While this maybe true, students should be fluent in English for it is the universal language and it is a tool to be globally competent. As I’ve learned in ESP, teaching a second language is crucial and tasking. I am encouraged that these methods or approaches can help teachers teach a second language.
With this, classes are taught in the students’ mother tongue, with little active use of the target language. Vocabulary is taught in the form of isolated word lists. Elaborate explanations of grammar are always provided. Grammar instruction provides the rules for putting words together; instruction often focuses on the form and inflection of words. Reading of difficult texts is begun early in the course of study.
To add, the classroom is devoted primarily to activities that foster acquisition of L2. Learning activities involving practice and drill are assigned as homework. The teacher should not correct speech errors directly. Students are allowed to respond in the target language, their native language, or a mixture of the two. The focus of all learning and speaking activities is on the interchange of a message that the acquirer understands and wishes to transmit, i.e. meaningful communication.
To conclude, what really matters is what really works for learners. Education was invented to set people straight on all these fine points. If we mean to put things right, we can’t wait much longer.