International Mother Language Day


The 21 of February is proclaimed as the International Mother Language Day by the UNESCO. Day before commencement of celebrations International Mother Tongue Association organized workshop for parents and teachers "Bilingual education and new technology". The seminar was held at the Department of Slavonic Studies of the University of Zurich. The main speaker was professor from Moscow and author of numerous textbooks and manuals for bilingual children, Elizaveta Hamraeva.

The purposes of the February workshop were: to popularize teaching of the Russian language as one of the native languages of bilingual child; to provide parents and teachers with practical advices; and introduction of the new teaching technologies. The motto of the seminar was: "To teach a child - it's easy. Give children the opportunity to learn Russian language – one of his/her native language. "

Participants of the workshop have gathered from all over Switzerland. Among them were teachers from CET "Matryoshka" and its branches in other cities, teachers of Russian language from Swiss schools and kindergartens, and parents. More than 50 people attended the event.

Mixed families were particularly enthusiastic about the seminar. Parents of bilingual children had a chance to ask questions and better understand utility special textbooks. It was explained why classical manuals, designed for full-time Russian schools, do not fit the needs of their children. A child, growing up in a bilingual family, requires a different approach. During the workshop it was decided to make the Swiss Russian school and kindergarten "Matryoshka" to be the first European platform where experimental program, created by Uventa publishers, will be tested. Students and teachers at the school will test innovative methods and textbooks for children learning Russian as a one of their native languages. Features of this literature were explored in detail by prof. Elizaveta Hamraeva.

Comments of prof. Burenina Petrova, doctor of philological sciences, associate professor of the Institute of Slavonic studies of the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zurich:

On the 4 February 2012 the Institute of Slavonic Studies of the University of Zurich held a seminar on the teaching of Russian language in limited environment and problems of bilingualism in Switzerland. The seminar was organized by the Russian children's centre "Matryoshka". As the main speaker was invited Head of Editorial Board of literature for national schools, doctor of pedagogical sciences, professor Elizaveta Hamraeva, well-known in European scientific and educational circles. Report of prof. Elizaveta Hamraeva was devoted to development of speaking skills and identity of bilingual children, their cognitive development.

In addition, was given a wonderful detailed overview of textbooks, required for the education of bilingual children. Speech by Elizabeth Hamraeva impressed not only me, but all the participants. I am convinced that seminars and conferences on the topic of bilingualism and protection of native language in restricted language environment should be regularly held in Switzerland. From my point of view, in order to learn more about the situation of bilingualism in Switzerland should be establish the Centre for Russian Language and Culture Studies in Switzerland (possibly on the basis of the University of Zurich). As a good example can serve centres of science and culture, recently established in Spain and Belgium. We should also keep in mind experience of the Geneva-based International Center of the Law Faculty of the Moscow State University, opened in September 2002.

Objectives of the Centre for Russian Language and Culture Studies in Switzerland:

  • To form a research group to study Russian language and bilingualism in Switzerland, particularly in schools and Swiss universities.
  • To conduct researches and teaching seminars, conferences, festivals devoted to Russian language in Switzerland. The first conference "Russian Language in Switzerland" should focus on bilingualism.
  • To develop a program to promote learning of the Russian language and culture in Switzerland.
  • To create a publishing house for Russian studies and association of Slavonic Studies in Switzerland.
  • To create Slavonic studies summer school. Centre for Russian Language and Culture Studies in Switzerland can be attended by Russian citizens wishing to obtain a degree in Russian studies, Swiss citizens, as well as citizens of other countries wishing to master their knowledge of the Russian language and learn more about Russian culture.
  • To publish research papers, monographs, textbooks and manuals.
  • To create scientific database of the activities of Swiss and foreign specialists in Russian philology (events, conferences, projects).