Three reasons you should love your native language

In 1999, UNESCO proclaimed February 21 as International Mother Language Day to promote cultural diversity and multilingualism across the globe. With more and more global citizens becoming bilingual or multilingual, early childhood research shows that many immigrants are slowly losing their native language proficiency while they are becoming linguistically assimilated into English-speaking societies.

However, preserving your native linguistic proficiency matters because of many personal, social, intellectual, educational and economic reasons.

1. To strengthen your cultural identity and family ties

Maintaining your first language is critical to your identity and contributes to a positive self-concept. The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) reiterates that continuing to study your mother tongue after childhood helps you learn how to value your culture and heritage. For parents, keeping your first language alive at home teaches children to take pride in their culture and roots.

In terms of its value in social interactions, speaking your first language can strengthen ties with family members. If the native language isn’t maintained, important links to family members may be lost. Parents of young children should encourage using their first language to prepare the child to interact with their native-language community.

Researchers cite that when parents are unable to communicate well with their children, they cannot easily convey to them their values, beliefs, or advice on how to cope with their experiences. Clear communication helps parents impart their wisdom to their children and enable them to become the kind of men and women they want them to be. When parents can’t socialize and influence their children due to language barriers, families could lose the intimacy that comes from shared beliefs and understanding.

Linguistic proficiency also helps immigrants to preserve cultural and linguistic connections to their home country, and being fluent in another language helps foreigners adjust more easily to new cultures.

2. To master other languages

Language learners need continuous intellectual development. When young learners who are not yet fluent in English speak only in English, they are functioning at a lower intellectual level. However, when parents and children communicate with each other using the language they know best, they are working at their actual level of intellectual maturity.

According to Multilingual Living magazine, mastering your mother language has proven benefits when learning a second language, and children with strong first-language skills are more ready and able to learn a second language. In early stages, reading in the first language can greatly accelerate the development of reading ability in the second language. Ideally, the foundation of the first language should be solid before the second language is learned.

3. To broaden your horizons

For global citizens or migrants who plan to return to their home country in the future, better employment opportunities are available if you remain fluent in your first language. Communicating and dealing with local colleagues and clients will be easier, too.

Finally, native-language proficiency could also help supplement your income by becoming a part- or full-time translator, interpreter or teacher. For instance, as a Gengo translator, you can earn extra income by translating texts into your native language, from anywhere in the world. Teaching your native language in schools or universities overseas could also be a rewarding and enriching experience.

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Jenie Gabriel

The author

Jenie Gabriel

Jenie creates and coordinates content for Gengo's marketing team. Originally from the Philippines, she was an advertising creative in Singapore before moving to Tokyo. In her spare time, you’ll find her wandering around the city or planning her next escapade.

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