Mother Tongue Programme

The Mother Tongue Programme supports students who cannot be provided with formal tuition in their mother tongue during school hours.

Research shows that the development of the student’s mother tongue or first language (usually the language spoken at home) is critical for their cognitive development; children who have not fully developed a first language can experience language-based cognitive difficulties later on.

Students may be fluent in their mother tongue however it is essential that they are also provided with the opportunity to become literate in their first language. The level of linguiatic competence a student can achieve in their second language is directly dependent on the extent to which their literacy in the mother tongue has been developed. The student’s sense of cultural and personal identity, and their self-esteem, is also greatly strengthened by mother tongue instruction.

ISH organises Mother Tongue classes outside the school curriculum using school facilities at the end of a regular school day. The lessons are taught by experienced private teachers with whom the parents enter into an agreement about participation and payment. The Mother Tongue Co-ordinators also assist in finding suitable teachers for these courses. Some programmes, such as Dutch, follow the national curriculum of their country.

The school offers support with purchasing books for these classes and there is also a large selection of books in the library in a variety of languages.

When students reach IB level, they can choose their first language as an A1 subject. There are two options. Provided there is a qualified teacher available, students can study at higher or standard level. This option is funded privately by the parents of the student. Alternatively, students can choose what is called the “school-supported” programme which means students can study their mother tongue at standard level and without a teacher.

However in order to avail of these options, the students should ideally study the language and literature of their first language prior to entering grade 11. To facilitate and encourage students to choose the above options, the Mother Tongue Programme is offered to both junior school and secondary school students.

There are currently mother tongue programmes for the following languages: Danish, Dutch, French, Hebrew, Hungarian, Portuguese and Russian.

ISH recognises that it takes a lot of time and dedication on the student's part to participate in these courses at the end of the school day. In order to support and recognise this, the Mother Tongue course is included on the student's official school report and transcripts for grades 6 to 10.  We hope this will encourage even more students to take part in one of our programmes.  

If you are interested in your child participating in our Mother Tongue Programme or require further information, please send an email to the Mother Tongue Coordinators at the address provided above right.


Kaja Ritters
Coordinator Junior School

Dan Shiffman
Coordinator Secondary School