Tag: Mother Tongues Festival

mother tongues stories

The time I questioned my own bilingual parenting skills

Before my first child was born I decided that I would speak Italian to him. I thought that speaking Italian to my baby would be the most natural thing to do, as I had always spoken Italian to every one of my family members.
I knew that being the only Italian speaker in our new home in England would mean that I needed to make an effort to expose my child to Italian, but I was prepared to do it. I got together with other Italian families and we met every weekend for years, I travelled as much as possible to Italy, I always chose to read books and watch cartoons in Italian. My son’s language development was fine, and I had no reason to worry. I could see he could understand everything we said both in English and in Italian, even though he mostly used English words at the beginning.

mother tongues storiesOne day when my son was 20 months old we went to our local parent and toddler group and the speaker that day was a speech and language therapist. She asked me a few questions about my son and commented on the fact that he seemed quiet and reserved, and did not seem to want to play with the other children.
I didn’t see anything strange in that, as I knew that whenever we visited the group he immediately reached out for his favourite toys and books. The speech and language therapist continued asking me questions about his language and finally asked me how many words he could say. I wasn’t too sure, but I estimated that he could say about 20 words, some of which were animal sounds (like calling the sheep “baa-baa”). I told her that these 20 words included a mix of Italian and English words, too. She was not too impressed and suggested to put his name down on the waiting list for speech and language therapy. This was based on my answer on the number of words he could say and on the fact that he was playing with a book quietly in a corner of a very busy room.

Lots of questions crossed my mind: should I trust a professional and put his name on the list, just for peace of mind? should I keep an eye on him and work more on his vocabulary?
I had written notes on my son’s early sounds and words in a small diary, and I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with his language development. However, that morning I did question my own judgement. I felt guilty thinking that I may have been too confident and not acknowledged that my child had a problem. I decided to ask more questions.
After a few minutes, I went to talk to the speech and language therapist and asked her why she thought my son should be put on the waiting list. She claimed that at 18 months all children can say at least 50 words and that if they speak two languages they should have at least 50 in each language, so she said that he was a typical case of language delay.
I had at least 10 friends whose 20-month-old children definitely used lots of words… but I also had at least 10 friends whose 20-month-old children said just “mama” and “dada”.
I also knew that it is important to observe a child’s development over time, and rather than placing a 20-month-old child on a waiting list for speech and language therapy, she should have advised me on how to take notes on his new words and how to expand his vocabulary.
When later I asked colleagues who work in the field they said that she should not have given a diagnosis without fully assessing my son, and she should not have assumed that he had language delay based on my report on number of words he could say.

After this short conversation with the speech and language therapist, I was a bit flustered. My son had just been given a “diagnosis” of language delay, and I didn’t take that lightly.
I went to talk to the manager of the toddler group and asked more questions. She told me that this specific speech and language therapist was newly qualified and she had already told many families with young bilingual children (and that was the majority of children at the centre) to stop speaking their mother tongue in order to “fix” their language delay.
She also told me that many parents had gone to her in tears, and felt that they had done something wrong to their child by speaking their mother tongue. The manager told me that she looked into the issue. I did attend the group again, and never saw that speech and language therapist again. I do wonder if the mothers who worried about their child’s development did follow the advice of giving up their mother tongue.
Even though I know how important it is to keep speaking my mother tongue to my child and I know what speech and language therapy involves, I did get very worried and I did question my parenting choices and my own ability to understand my child’s development.

So was she right? Was the language delay real? In our case luckily there was no issue in his language development, but we definitely kept a close eye on him until he was about 4. It was a process that seemed slow and not consistent at times, but I continued to speak Italian to him and now that he is 9 I can say that I don’t regret this decision at all.

What I would say to other families in the same situation is to ask questions, consult experts (public health nurses, speech and language therapists) but never accept the advice of someone who claims that to fix any problem or overcome any difficulty it is necessary for parents to stop speaking their mother tongue to their child.

Author: Francesca La Morgia

We are looking for more stories! Would you like to share yours? Send an email to info@mothertongues.ie and we will get in touch soon!

Mother Tongues Festival 2019. Tallaght, 2nd and 3rd March 2019. Picture Enzo Francesco Testa Photography. www.enzofrancescotesta.com

Mother Tongues Festival: an arts festival with a difference

Imagine a place where people have fun speaking many different languages, a place where children and adults learn about culture, stories and languages through art-making, music and dance! This is what the Mother Tongues Festival was all about!

Over the last two weekends we hosted more than 50 events in over 20 languages, we met artists, professionals and performers from India, Ethiopia, Russia, Libya, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Egypt, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Spain, France just to name a few! They filled rooms and entire venues in Galway and in Tallaght with their talent, through workshops, talks, poetry, music, dances and science. Participants of the Festival had a chance to listen to multilingual poetry, try Bollywood dancing, draw Irish wild animals with a Polish illustrator, learn Chinese calligraphy, meet musicians from Congo and Nigeria and learn Japanese through origami making!

The aim of Mother Tongues Festival is to promote languages and cultures in Ireland through the arts. Most of the people we spoke to at the events told us that they were happy to learn something new through languages that are currently spoken in Ireland and many families said they loved the opportunity to cultivate and share their community languages outside of the home.

As we pack our Festival suitcase and go home to prepare our 2020 edition we are filled with the positive energy gained at the event.
There are so many people we need to thank! We are extremely grateful to RuaRed, the Civic Theatre and Galway2020 for believing in our project and making it happen in Dublin and Galway. Without the support of the Arts CouncilSouth Dublin County Council and the Small Town Big Ideas Initiative our festival could not have been so successful. We are honoured to have been granted funding to pursue our dream! The many sponsors that have come on board this year have allowed us to make it an even more special event! We are very grateful to RTE’, the Ambassade de France en Irlande, the Goethe InstitutLanguages Connect, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in DublinSt. Kilian’s Deutsche Schule in Dublin, the Dublin School of Mandarin Chinese, Your English Language School in Dublin, the Istituto Italiano di CulturaBrady LanguagesThe Stop B&BAtlas Language SchoolSeachtain na Gaeilge le Energia, the Chester Beatty LibraryUnuhiIrish Architecture FoundationÁras na nGaelCreative Ireland and Massimo Russo.

And last but not least, do not forget that the festival is only good craic if you come!
A MASSIVE thank you, grazie, merci, gracias, obrigados, mulțumesc, go raibh maith agat teşekkürler
to all the hundreds of people who have attended our two Festivals!

See you in 2020!

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Mother Tongues Festival Art competition

“My world of Languages” – Art Competition at the Mother Tongues Festival

Mother Tongues art competition

About the Competition

The first Mother Tongues Art Competition was instituted by Mother Tongues to celebrate International Mother to celebrate International Mother Language Day and the International Year of Indigenous Languages within the Mother Tongues Festival. The goal of the competition is to explore the role of language in our everyday life.
Everyone between the ages of 4 and 18 is welcome to submit an entry.
All works submitted will be exhibited at the Mother Tongues Festival in Dublin on 2nd and 3rd of March 2019. Three prizes will be awarded for each category.
Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony in Rua Red Arts Center, Blessington Rd, Tallaght, Dublin 24.

How to enter

The subject of this competition is “My world of languages”

Size of artwork
Your entry should not be smaller than A4 (29.7cm x 21.0cm) or larger than A3 (59.4cm x 42.0cm). Entries should not be mounted.

Use of Materials

You may use any type of paper, white, coloured, rough or smooth. The work that you submit may be drawn or painted in pencil, charcoal, pen and ink, crayon, pastel, watercolour, gouache, acrylics, oils, poster colour and collage. The work may be a print created from a lino block, wood block or any other method, and your artwork may be submitted on canvas. The work may be digitally produced. Digitally produced artwork may be emailed to the address education@mothertongues.ie
A photograph or scanned image of an original artwork will not be considered.


Your work should be original and unaided.

Number of Entries
You may submit only one entry per individual. Only individual entries will be accepted and they may be submitted directly by you, by your school or by your art group.

Information Required
Your submission should include the following information on the back of your entry:
Name and age
Category and title of the entry
Your home address or your school address
A signature of your teacher or your guardian
A contact number
An email address

Please note:
Your age as of the closing date of the Competition (1st February 2019).
One signature from a teacher will be sufficient to cover all entries from a school.

The Closing Date
The closing date for receipt of entries is Friday 1st February 2019.

Sending Your Entry
Please post your entry to:
My Art School of Dance and Art
CityHouse, Newmarket, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8

4 to 6 years
7 to 10 years
11 to 14 years
15-18 years

Special Category
The Special Category encourages participants with a physical or intellectual disability to submit entries in free expression without the restriction of the competition’s official theme if they so wish.

Quick Checklist – Rules of entry
To enter, you must be under 19 years of age by 1st February 2019 and you must be resident on the island of Ireland.
You should print the following information (IN BLOCK CAPITALS) on the back of each entry:

-Name and age
-Category and title of the entry
-School name, school address, school email address, school telephone number and school teacher or Art teacher’s name.
If you are submitting artwork to the Competition that has been undertaken in your school or at an external art class, your school teacher or Art Teacher’s signature will also be required. If you are submitting artwork to the Competition that has been undertaken in your home, your parent or guardian’s signature will be required instead in addition to your home address, your home telephone number and your home email address.
– You may enter only one piece of artwork. Only individual entries will be accepted. A photograph or scanned image of an original artwork will not be considered under any circumstances.
– Your entry should be submitted in flat format and should remain within the specified size guidelines. Framed entries will not be accepted under any circumstances.
– The closing date for entries is 1s February 2019.
– The Judging Panel is responsible for the allocation of awards. The decision of the Judging Panel is final and no correspondence will be entered into regarding that decision.
– Mother Tongues will not accept liability for loss or damage to any work submitted.
– All entries together with the artists’ details (name, age, school or town) may be used in publicity campaigns after the Mother Tongues Art Competition and in future Competitions. Photographs of the winners together with their names and ages may be used in publicity campaigns where the parents or guardians of the winners have given their consent.
– The rules of the Competition may not be changed or modified and will strictly be applied.
– All personal information supplied will be used by Mother Tongues solely for the administration and management of the Art Competition.

Find out more about Mother Tongues Festival

Language Explorers. Book launch at the Chester Beatty Library, 18th Sept 2018.

Launch of Language Explorers Activity Book

The Language Explorers Activity Book was launched on 18th September at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin.
The event opened with an address by  Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, CEO of Gaeloideachas, on the importance of multilingualism and the relevance of the Language Explorers Activity Book in classrooms.
The launch included a fantastic “Language Explorers” themed workshop organised by Dr La Morgia in collaboration with Jenny Siung, Head of Education at the Chester Beatty Library, who worked together on the book.

“It was an honour to be able to collaborate with Jenny Siung and Justyna Chmielewska at the Chester Beatty Library, because they immediately understood the potential of this multilingual resource and their collection is the perfect starting point for a multilingual treasure hunt” said La Morgia. “I really enjoyed seeing the children walking around the collection and spotting the objects that were portrayed in the book and I hope that many more children will be able to look at this collection and at the world around them with a different attitude after they have completed the activities in the book.”

Dr Francesca La Morgia awarded the European Language Label for the Language Explorers initiative
Dr Francesca La Morgia awarded the European Language Label for the Language Explorers initiative

Since the book launch, the Language Explorers project for primary schools has been awarded the European Language Label, an award that rewards innovative initiatives in the realm of language teaching and learning.

The Language Explorers activity book, published by Mother Tongues, includes activities for primary school children that encourage them to explore the linguistic landscape around them and to play with language. The activity book takes children on a journey of discovery through games, quizzes and word searches. Young Language Explorers will start observing the languages they see every day on road signs, shop fronts and even on their food labels!

The book is available in English and in Irish, thanks to the support of Gaeloideachas.

Get your copy HERE.

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Great success for the First Mother Tongues Festival!

On 24th February we celebrated UNESCO International Mother Language Day and the first birthday of Mother Tongues with a Festival of languages.

The idea for the first Mother Tongues Festival started over coffee during a sunny afternoon in August 2017 and, as the project developed, we discovered that many artists were very keen to be involved in a project aimed at celebrating language.
More than 300 people attended the festival, which took place at the Outhouse, on 105 Capel Street, and all events were well attended.
From the first chat about our plans, we knew that this idea would be new to the Festival scene and we often wondered whether people would want to take part and whether funders and potential sponsors would believe in our project. We soon realized that many people loved the idea and we received great support from many organizations and individuals, who kept encouraging us along the way.
What made the festival really unique was the possibility to take part in art, music, drama and science workshops in over 10 different languages. In each class native speakers of the language used by the workshop leader worked together with language learners and people who had never heard the language before. What was really interesting was to see people of all ages and nationalities walk into a class led in a completely new language. This is what really showed us that the project worked.
Our festival allowed people to connect through language and diversity did not represent a barrier, but rather a reason to get together and celebrate.
We already look forward to the next year Mother Tongues Festival!
We want to thank once again all our funders, partners and sponsors:

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Volunteers wanted!

Mother Tongues is looking for volunteers to assist during the Mother Tongues Festival (24th February 2018, Outhouse, 105 Capel street, Dublin1).

To apply, please fill in THIS FORM.
NEW deadline is 5th February.

Do not miss out on this great opportunity to participate in the first multilingual Festival in Ireland!

Mother Tongues, Mother Tongues Dublin, mother tongues, multilingualism, raising bilingual children Dublin, bilingualism, Dublin

Goodbye to an eventful 2017!

We are very close to the end of 2017, and I feel it is time to reflect on all the achievements of this very exciting year.
How did it all start? On a cold January day, after an inspiring chat with a colleague from Trinity College, I decided to restart a previous project which I had abandoned in 2010, when I left Ireland to take up a post at the University of Reading. Read more

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The principal of the Dublin School of Mandarin Chinese visits our group in December

It has been fantastic to have Evan Furlong as our guest speaker for the Christmas edition of our families’ meeting. Evan moved to the cold emerald isle from exotic Taiwan 17 years ago and she is raising two multilingual children.
Evan talked to the group about some of the challenges of raising bilingual children in families where parents speak different languages and shared some of her tips based on her experience as a parent and a teacher of multilingual children.
In her experience, despite much research has shown the benefits of using two languages from an early age, it is still common to meet parents who give up their mother tongue.
In her talk, Evan tried to encourage parents to persevere and to use their mother tongue when talking to their children as much as possible.
Evan does not believe in the stereotypical “Tiger Mom” methods but believes that it is important to encourage children to learn their parents’ language and to also learn about the culture of their parents’ countries of origin.
Evan has a Masters in Education from UCD, and she is the principal of the Dublin School of Mandarin Chinese, which has its base in Greystones, County Wicklow.
The school offers weekly classes and summer camps to primary and secondary school children.
To find out more about the Dublin School of Mandarin Chinese, you can visit their website www.dsmc.biz/ and their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DublinMandarinSchool/
Evan will also run an exciting Chinese papercutting workshop for kids 8+ at our Mother Tongues Festival. Find out more here.
Claudia Kunkel

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Would you like to sponsor our first Mother Tongues Festival?

Mother Tongues, Mother Tongues Dublin, mother tongues, multilingualism, rising bilingual children Dublin, bilingualism, DublinTo celebrate UNESCO International Mother Language Day, and the first birthday of Mother Tongues, we will host the first Mother Tongues Festival.
The Mother Tongues Festival will take place on 24th February 2018, and it will be a celebration of Ireland’s linguistic diversity, with performances and workshops in many different languages.
Find out more about our lineup on the Festival official website: www.mothertonguesfestival.com.
Our team is working hard to organise this unforgettable event and we are looking for sponsors.
Sponsorship will be used for festival costs and will also be a fundraiser for Mother Tongues activities held throughout the year.

There are three levels of sponsorship available:

  • Level 1: A donation of 100
    Acknowledgement of your sponsorship and your logo in the festival programme, and on the Mother Tongues Festival website and Facebook page;
  • Level 2: A donation of €200
    Acknowledgement of your sponsorship and your logo in the festival programme and on the Mother Tongues Festival website and Facebook page;
    Corporate signage at the Mother Tongues Festival;
  • Level 3: A donation of €500
    Acknowledgement of your sponsorship/your logo in the festival programme and on the Mother Tongues Festival website and Facebook page;
    Corporate signage at the Mother Tongues Festival;
    A stand at Mother Tongues Festival (limited places);
    Your logo on the publicity fliers and slides at our Bilingual and Multilingual Family Network events .

Your sponsorship would mean that Mother Tongues can continue working to support bilingual and multilingual families in Ireland. To sponsor Mother Tongues, please email Elena: elena@mothertongues.ie.