In the Nation article, Use of mother tongue vital, studies show, several speakers and their research results at the Language, Education and Millennium Development Goals were highlighted. Experts in the field of language related their experiences and findings from several countries, including the USA, Canada, Thailand, China, Cambodia and Vietnam. The resounding message from researchers, government officials and teachers was the same, children should learn in their mother tongue before learning a national or international language. With more and evidence to support this philosophy, it has been show by many groups working independently across the globe that the cognitive development of children is supported by learning concrete and abstract concepts in the child’s home langauge first. Then, when the child learns a second or third language, the concepts are easily applied and transferred because the thinking skills and processes are already developed.
I especially think the case in Thailand with the Patani-Malay speaking children was encouraging. Professor of linguistics, Suwilai Premsrirat, from Mahidol University’s Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia explained the process of identifying an appropriate script for the Patani-Malay language, developing learning materials based on the local language, culture and traditions in collaboration with community, teachers, parents and learners. After a few years of implementation, the results are amazing. The project has a 99% approval rate from the community and children are now transitioning from the Thai-based script of Patani-Malay to learning Thai in grade 3 onwards. I think the results are very hopeful and is a critical step in the right direction for solving the problems and conflicts in Thailand’s Deep South.
Source: The Nation