Created on January 25, 2021
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With a visual representation of students' home languages, we communicate clearly to our students and their families that they are welcome, including the languages they speak.
Without visual representation, students may receive the message that their languages do not matter and that they need to hide their own language. Even when the official school policy is that all languages are welcome, without actually seeing or hearing the languages at school, the message may not be clear for students. Especially for languages that have a low status in the wider society.
Worldwide, children are prohibited and even punished when using their home languages at school.
Prohibiting, punishing, or discouraging the use of students' languages effectively silences them. It may lead to confusion, frustration, low self-esteem and may negatively impact their learning.
Punishments instill in students the inferior status of their home languages. It devalues their identities, that of their families, and all speakers of these languages.
Punishing children for home language use is a violation of their linguistic human rights and their right to education.
A study in Flanders (Belgium) showed that children who were punished for using their home language at school performed worse academically than their peers who were not punished for comprehensive reading and science. They also felt less at home at school and believed they had fewer future opportunities.
Language Friendly Schools commit in writing not to prohibit, punish or discourage home-language use at the school grounds. For classroom use of home languages, we recommend creating a language friendly classroom policy.
Agirdag, 2017; Cummins, 2015; Dovchin, 2020; Hurwitz & Kambel, 2020; Mary & Young, 2017; Rezzoug, De Plaën, Bensekhar-Bennabi, & Moro, 2007; Skutnabb-Kangas & Phillipson, 1995.