Mother Tongue Classes Inconsistent - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Mother Tongue Classes Inconsistent

Published April 14, 2014

Photos by
Natsha Nandabhiwat

Students of different nationalities have inconsistent access to mother tongue classes, and some parents report that teachers force immigrant children to speak Icelandic with each other instead of their native languages.

RÚV reports that Cheila Vanessa Santos, a 16-year-old girl from Portugal who has lived in Iceland for the past ten years, does not have access to learning her native language in Icelandic schools, but is required to learn Danish.

Upon further investigation, reporters found that immigrant children of different nationalities have uneven access to mother tongue classes. While children from Norway and Poland, for example, are allowed to drop Danish and learn their native languages instead, Cheila was told that this was not an option for her.

Reporters also spoke with parents of children of foreign origin to get their side of the story. Many of them reported that some teachers had forbidden these students from speaking their native languages with each other, or have banned any reading materials in free time that are written in foreign languages. None of these parents would go on record for fear their children would face reprisals.

Cheila confirmed for reporters that teachers have often told immigrant children to speak Icelandic around the clock. “It’s still hard to stop speaking your native language with people from the same country as yourself,” she added.


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