From Iceland — Conservatives Axe Mother Tongue Classes

Conservatives Axe Mother Tongue Classes

Published May 22, 2009

Conservatives on the Reykjanesbær town council voted to cut out of the
budget Polish mother tongue classes for immigrant children. All primary schools in the town will be effected.
About 900 Poles live in Reykjanesbær, many of them with children. Numerous studies have pointed out that teaching the mother tongue of immigrant children in primary school can actually help their general language skills, including their comprehension of their adopted language, not to mention helping them properly learn the language their parents speak.
Guðbrandur Einarsson, a town councilman who was against the decision, pointed out that some of these children could possibly move back to their home countries without having their mother tongue properly maintained. “Do people consider it right not to provide children with mother tongue classes? I don’t think the logic holds,” he said.
Garðar Vilhjálmsson, one of the councilmen a part of the conservative majority who voted with the decision, responded by saying there are over 30 different mother tongues in Reykjanesbær primary schools, and providing mother tongue classes for all of them would be nearly impossible, adding, “Most important of all is that we teach them Icelandic,” and that it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their own children their mother language.

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