Perhaps like me, you were surprised and intrigued to learn that International Mother Language Day (IMLD) is a global celebration. First proclaimed in 1999 by UNESCO, the goal of the day is “to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.” This year, the theme of IMLD is about the use of technology in language education.
From hot spots and mobile devices to software and virtual classrooms, World Relief has used the power of technology to serve people from over 50 different languages and 100 different countries.
Here are a couple of the benefits of technology that we have seen.
Fewer Barriers to Learning
Hosting classes on zoom has removed barriers like transportation and childcare. Now parents with young kids, immunocompromised individuals, and families that are still in need of a car can learn English. Breakout rooms give students opportunities to connect with one another. Sometimes students join from their apartment, a public park, or in their car. It is so special to see them finding joy and comfort in their classroom communities.
Volunteering is More Accessible
From all over Illinois, the community of volunteers supporting and contributing to vibrant online classes is inspiring. People, like you, log on regularly and find a place to make a difference. In addition to virtual classes, there are virtual tutoring opportunities to help students become better at navigating everyday life in the United States.
Learning English is a vital step to help someone navigate life in the United States. The ability to speak English empowers immigrants to read signs at grocery stores, contribute to parent-teacher conferences, comprehend medical appointments, and so much more. While learning English is necessary here in the United States, I believe that different languages are a beautiful gift from God that should be celebrated. A quote that Teacher Ashley Heredia shared with me captures some of this sentiment.
“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”-Rita Mae Brown
Many of the people in our English classes have powerful and beautiful stories. It is a joy to find yourself in a community with people who are different from you. When you experience being welcomed by someone in their mother language, it is an honoring and beautiful moment, one I hope to never take for granted.
Check out this quick video of one of our classes sharing how to say “welcome” in their mother languages. And then consider how you could get involved in virtual English education.