Maik Gibson MarCEL Diki-kiDiri CYBERSPACE AND MOTHER TONGUE EDUCATION After having redefined what is a mother tongue, we will focus in a second phase on evaluating the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction, and to describe such teaching. Then we will focus in a second phase on evaluating the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction, and on describing such teaching.
Original article in French.
Translated by Laura Kraftowitz.
MARCEL DIKI-KIDIRI, Central African Republic, is now Consultant in Aplied Linguistics. Before he retired in 2010, he was senior researcher at the CNRS in the unit Language, Languages and Black African Cultures (LLACAN : CNRS, INALCO) he question of Cyberspace and Mother Tongue Education can only be posed if the very sense of the term “mother tongue education” is Tclarified. In most countries, with the exception of those in a state of post-colonial dependency, or for minority and under served communities, education takes place in the language of the majority. In monolingual and weak multilingual communities, the majority language is the mother tongue of the majority of its speakers. In strong multilingual societies, the majority language, if it exists, is often a second, third or even fourth language for most of its speakers. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in all cases, a child learns best, that is, more content more rapidly, by receiving instruction in the language s/he uses most frequently, which is often considered the mother tongue.
WHAT IS A “MOTHER TONGUE” The term itself initially came from the belief that all children learned their first words in the lap of their mothers. This simplification is often far from reality. In many patrilineal societies 1, it is the father’s language that is taught to the child, whether or not the mother does the teaching.
In this case, we could speak of a “father tongue”, to better illustrate this socio-cultural reality. In strong multilingual societies, it is not uncommon for a child to learn several languages simultaneously beginning at infancy. We use the term “individual multilingualism” to describe a person who speaks several languages, and the term “multilingual society” when multiple languages are spoken by a community living in the same area. A multilingual society is in turn characterized as either diglot or polyglot, 1 Which is based solely on the paternal ancestry in terms of parentage, family organization and social group, of a clan (Trsor de la Langue Franaise http://atilf.atilf.fr Marcel Diki-Kidiri depending on whether two or more languages are spoken by at least a majority, if not the entirety, of the population, with specialized functions for each language. But a multilingual society can also be composed of several local and essentially monolingual populations, each with its own mother tongue. Finally, where a common language is in the majority, it quickly becomes the first language of younger generations. Thus, the definition of mother tongue as “the first language a child learns” conflicts with its qualifier, “mother”. Furthermore, education specialists prefer to speak of a “first language” as a more accurate, precise and neutral term in relation to the conditions of language learning. Throughout the remainder of this article, the term “mother tongue” should thus be understood as the equivalent of “first language”.
WHAT IS “MOTHER TONGUE EDUCATION” We use the word education to mean training and instruction given to children, adolescents and young adults, to prepare them to fully assume their place and responsibilities in society as adults and citizens. Educational systems vary between countries and human communities, based on core values, as well as essential knowledge and skills that society chooses to transmit to the younger generation. In the case of adults who have already exited the primary and secondary educational system, but who find themselves in a situation of learning, we speak of training rather than education. The central question that interests us here is what language(s) should be used to teach the various disciplines that are programmed into an educational or vocational training system IN A MULTILINGUAL CONTEXT, WHAT LANGUAGE SHOULD BE USED FOR EDUCATION One would expect that any teaching or training would be conducted in the language best understood by the learner, assumedly that person’s first language and mother tongue. While this is the case in independent countries where institutions function in the local majority language, in many strong multilingual countries, the language of institutions doesn’t always correspond to the mother tongue of the local majority. Child learners are taught in a language of instruction they don’t know or haven’t mastered, which demands considerable and disproportionate effort to reach each Marcel Diki-Kidiri level of knowledge in the various disciplines covered. Does this mean that strong multilingual countries must give up the dream of mother tongue education and training Thanks to extensive research in the educational sciences, along with experiments carried out in several strong multilingual countries, it has been established that it is possible, even in such a country, to develop diverse educational systems that judiciously and positively use multilingualism to provide populations with access to knowledge in each of their languages, while at the same time improving the ability of learners to speak several languages, by teaching those languages. In many cases, this requires profound educational reform and long-term effort, but is ultimately less expensive and more profitable than maintaining the status quo of the existing inadequate systems.
Educational reform targeting the integration of mother tongues as the languages of instruction and as subjects taught not only changes curricula, programmatic organization, term lengths, and so on, but also teaching and learning methods that can integrate new pedagogical tools, such as icts, and lead to new ways of doing things, or even new behaviours. In addition, the use of a given language as the language of instruction assumes that it is adequately equipped with the technical terminology of the discipline in question to fully convey the specialized knowledge of that discipline. The systematic development of specialized vocabularies belongs to the field of terminology as a specialized branch of linguistics and requires an organized and methodical implementation by the necessary public institutions (academies, offices, high commissioners, delegations, institutes, etc.). Mother tongues that are thus equipped must then be taught in formal curricula and written into the national qualification exams in order to become fully attractive. As with all modern life’s fields of activity, icts are ubiquitous within the field of education, notably in language teaching, for which icts have totally revolutionized teaching methods, particularly in the field of distance education. However, the installation of icts requires heavy infrastructure that is not always available in certain countries, particularly in rural and remote areas.
Marcel Diki-Kidiri WHAT INFRASTRUCTURE IS REQUIRED FOR ICT USE IN MOTHER TONGUE EDUCATION Two types of infrastructure should be considered prerequisites : that of the educational system itself, and that of communication networks. After that, special equipment is needed to use icts in mother tongue education.
Educational Infrastructure The density and distribution of educational and training institutions (all schools from kindergarten to higher education, vocational training centres, centres for training, etc.) ; and the number of learners (pupils, students, apprentices, trainees, etc.) by class and institution, are essential parameters that should guide the choice of technological solutions promoting ict access to the greatest number possible. Since in general, cities have a higher population concentration than rural areas, they also have better equipped educational facilities. On the other hand, rural areas, even when highly populated, are much more spread out, which leads to lower infrastructure density. As a result, rural youth have a much less easy time than their urban counterparts to even get to school, let alone get to a computer. The divide observed in rich countries is even more significant in poor countries, where the number of students in a class is frequently extremely bloated.
Communication Infrastructure The oldest communication network still in use is that of the landline, which is giving way to the radio waves of wireless networks. These require the erection of many antennae just to cover a city, let alone countryside or an entire continent. Aerial solutions (geostationary, ultralight gliders) aren’t any cheaper, but are less suited to applications requiring fast action in real-time (video games, remote surgery). However, they can cover large areas with no on-ground apparatus aside from wireless receivertransmitters. Finally, fiber-optic technology allowing the transfer of large amounts of data at a very high speed is fast approaching : as usual, first in large cities in developed countries before later reaching the rural areas ;
and still later, cities in developing countries.
Marcel Diki-Kidiri Special Equipment Just as a classroom should be equipped with desks or the equivalent, it is necessary to equip any institution wishing to integrate icts into its teaching methods and school management with the appropriate tools [BASQUE 1998]. Technological products are extremely varied and can match any budget. The choice of equipment also depends on the desired objectives and modes of operation. The computer is an essential basic tool, regardless of format (desktop, laptop, tablet). No institution, however, can afford to provide each learner with their own computer as a work tool. The development of a computer room, where a set number of computers are locally connected, is a much more manageable solution. In a university, where the number of students is usually much greater than in a primary or secondary school, it may be useful to have several computer rooms together on a digital campus. Specialized software permits the management of all institutional activities, including course management, grades, exams, and the flow of information between teachers, students, and administrators [PELGRUM 2004]. This last point requires the establishment of an intranet email system, in which each member of the institution has a personal account. Finally, document management is one of the ict’s main areas of expertise. Not only does it facilitate the complete management of a local library, but also all the relations between a library and other national and international holdings, allowing to locate and access their available resources.
USING ICTS TO TEACH A MOTHER TONGUE When the above infrastructure and equipment conditions are met, the use of icts for language teaching, especially of the learner’s mother tongue, varies greatly depending on the pedagogical approach taken ; and the educational sciences have developed many, each with its own advantages and shortcomings [BASQUE 2002]. This is also one of the main reasons they are constantly replaced. Whatever the theories, none of them considers icts to be more than a learning aid [DEMAIZIRE 2007]. The whole question is what is meant by an “aid”. The idea itself of what constitutes a learning process conditions what we consider an aid. When we consider, for example, that to attain an acceptable level of proficiency in a given language, one must successfully pass a number of tests at several calibrated levels of difficulty, Marcel Diki-Kidiri it’s not hard to imagine that the use of these indications would structure the learner’s advancement. It would help her or him arrive rapidly at the correct answer for each test. The computer is in that context used as a tutor and assessor [TAYLOR 1880]. This is consistent with a conception of learning that sees the learner as an empty brain to fill with new information, which, once assimilated, constitutes the knowledge gained.
From this perspective, we create tutorials to lead a “failure” step by step to success. But today, in light of ict advances, together with those of the educational sciences, pedagogy emphasizes the learner-centred approach [DE VRIES 2001], [ANGRIST 2002]. The learner is no longer a passive recipient, but an actor on a learning path, whose choices and actions lead and build according to her or his progression. Also, the computer becomes a resource-rich tool of production [FORCIER 1999]. The student still has goals to achieve, but they are achieved intuitively, by trying out various tools and taking different paths according to temperament, prior knowledge, psychological state, relationship to work and to others, and so on. The others are simply more present, because the computer no longer being a resource provider, the bulk of the “aid” becomes human again. Indeed, peer support via collaborative work is made possible by ict networks and distance learning [WILEY 2002] and also through the “human resources”, such as coaches and experts [CAZADE 1999], guest lecturers, and so on. The teaching profession is fragmenting into several specific activities that each requires the intervention of specific specialized persons. The learner is invited to “play” with this panoply of technological tools to create and produce using the imagination [JONASSEN 2000], [LEBRUN 2002], and moves through the appropriation of the original focus of studies, that of the mother tongue, within this act of production and creation.
SOME ILLUSTRATIVE EXAMPLES In Canada, as in most industrialized countries, governments have invested significant resources into networking and equipping primary and secondary schools, as well as institutions of higher learning. The initial teacher training has been adjusted to optimize the capacity of young teachers to take full advantage of these new technologies. However, many studies show that teachers make only marginal use of icts, restricting them to certain types of classroom activities. In many cases, activities are experimental and the results are watered down and overly general. According Marcel Diki-Kidiri to [LAROSE 2010], the United States has the best documented and most convincing experience :
A single methodologically rigorous study with a large sample finds a stable effect of ict use on building writing skills in the mother tongue.