Mother Tongue

ISPP’s Philosophy of Mother Tongue

The International School of Phnom Penh believes that it is vital that all students have the opportunity to maintain and develop their Mother Tongue (the main language that the student uses at home) wherever feasible. The following extracts are recommendations from the IB.

The research relating to mother-tongue maintenance and development (Cummins and Danesi, in Baker and Prys Jones, 1988) is particularly significant. This research indicates that students following a mother-tongue maintenance and development programme receive the following benefits:

  • They avoid language loss and the resultant negative effects, for example, subtractive bilingualism(where the development of a second language is detrimental to the first language). They perform at least as well (often better) in mainstream subjects (science, humanities, etc) as monolingual students.
  • They perform at least as well (often better) as second-language students who don’t maintain their mother tongue and are schooled wholly in the second language.
  • They retain a positive attitude toward their mother tongue and cultural background when the school shows acceptance of the mother-tongue language, accounting for increased self-esteem and its resultant benefits.

Based on educational research, ISPP believes that students with a strong mother tongue, and those who continue to develop, are far more successful in learning and functioning in another target language. Therefore ISPP is continuously looking for innovative ways to facilitate the maintenance of your child’s Mother Tongue.

The Mother Tongue Programme – Not a Foreign Language Course

The purpose of the programme is to provide the opportunity for all students to develop appropriate skills in their mother tongue according to their age level. The Mother Tongue Programme is not a foreign language course. Therefore children should be fluent speakers of a language that is spoken at home by at least one parent. The school may determine if a particular student meets the requirements to join a Mother Tongue class.

Please see Mother Tongue information for the Middle Years Programme and the Diploma Programme below.


If students are entering into Diploma and the Language self-taught option (see the Diploma section), it is important they maintain their Mother Tongue language acquisition. There are two possible ways of accomplishing this:

  • The student takes Mother Tongue lessons during the Language Acquisition (Foreign Language) timetabled slot instead of a foreign language.
  • The student studies Mother Tongue after school with a recognized teacher/tutor of the school’s choosing as part of the school’s after school program.

For further information about the Mother Tongue Programme for MYP students, please contact Ms Elizabeth Ramey, our Language Acquisition Learning Leader for World Languages at [email protected], or Mr Matt Clouter at [email protected], IB Middle Years Programme Coordinator.

EAL and Mother Tongue

For students who receive English as an Additional Language (EAL) Support in Grades 6-10, some levels of support include compulsory Mother Tongue language instruction. See the Secondary EAL section of the website here for further information.


In the Diploma (Grades 11 & 12) students may opt to study their mother tongue as a Self-taught Language A: Literature course. This is available at the standard level (SL) only and the course may be chosen by both IB and ISPP Diploma students. Students opting to follow a self-taught course must be competent language users and should have a keen interest in studying literature.

Students who opt to follow Self-taught Language A: Literature course will also need to take an additional language subject (Language A or Language Acquisition). Whatever their choice, they will be eligible for a Bilingual Diploma.

For questions dealing with the Mother Tongue Programme for Diploma students, please contact Ms Lucie Lecocq-Otsing, IB Diploma Programme Coordinator at [email protected].


Learn More

Click on a topic below to learn more about our secondary education programme.

ISPP – International School of Phnom Penh