Diversity of language is at the heart of a plural global community which plays a significant role in shaping an individual’s identity. Students at Oakridge International School (OIS) come from a wide range of backgrounds and according to the school’s home and family languages survey for the 2020-21 school year, 23 languages are spoken by pupils at the school. Though the majority of students are bilingual with a preference to speak English, Telugu is the main home and family language.
In this fast-moving world, while we often talk about the lofty ideals of international mindedness, delivering it to the learning community in practical terms poses a big challenge. In line with the IB learner profile, OIS nurtures its students to be future-ready, global citizens who impact the world positively. Through an atmosphere of acceptance and celebration of linguistic diversity within the community, the OIS Language Policy encourages students to cultivate their home and family language—the bedrock of building a lifelong learner. As stated by Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”
Throughout the academic year, the school honours linguistic diversity by conducting a language week and on 21 February, the whole school celebrated International Mother Language Day 2022—a worldwide celebration that first originated in Bangladesh. This day aims to promote the inclusion of people from different linguistic backgrounds and how it is important for us as a society to preserve languages.
The week was filled with a plethora of activities mapped out by different subject requirements, with every IB curriculum classroom joining in to celebrate the week. Students and respective class teachers were responsible for carrying out a unique activity and spreading the word to preserve the culture and heritage of the country.
A special virtual assembly for the whole school was conducted on International Mother Language Day 2022 by the Diploma Programme Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) student-led team. The students leading the assembly highlighted facts from a 2012 National Geographic article—Vanishing Voices. With one language dying every 14 days, what happens when a language dies and what happens to all the knowledge and culture accumulated over the years? An entire amalgamation of history, knowledge, and culture is lost to some indistinguishable void. Can you imagine that?
It was then highlighted how languages deepen the connection to other cultures. By understanding that the backbone of cultural heritage within society depends on the language used, one can unlock new dimensions within their understanding of regions of the world geographically distant from them. By learning a language, we diversify our perception of the world. Culture is the soul of a nation, and nations run based on language (“Language: The essence of culture”). By learning a new language, we gain a deeper understanding of the soul of a country and those who reside within it.
During the assembly, the hosts utilised Mentimeter to create a virtual word cloud by asking all students to write a word in their home and family language that they thought was relevant to the topic, a word that makes them happy, reminds them of home, family, or just any word that they think is beautiful.
There were many activities that took place throughout the week-long celebration such as, a guest lecture by a parent on the history of their mother language, storytelling, poems, stories, monologues, debates, discussions, and reflections on Ted Talks on Mother Language Day.
During the celebration week, plentiful learning occurred that supported multilingualism and promoted intercultural understanding and international-mindedness. An e-quiz was sent to all students to check their learning and understanding of the topic, with all students promising that they would take steps towards preserving the languages they inherit.
Ambika Kapur has been a teacher-librarian at Oakridge International School in Hyderabad for seven years and has more than twelve years of experience. She collaborates with staff and teachers to understand their requirements and promote a reading culture in the school. As an EDI (Equality Diversity Inclusion) champion, Ambika aims to create an open and supportive culture where people can connect, learn, teach, and create commonality to work together and create a unified culture of wellbeing. You may connect with Ambika here.
Rymer, Russ. “Vanishing Voices.” Magazine, National Geographic, 3 May 2021, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/article/vanishing-languages#:~:text=One%20language%20dies%20every%2014,when%20a%20language%20goes%20silent%3F.Accessed 18 Feb.2022