First-Language and Second-Language Learning

In national education systems that developed in the “classical” tradition (the European model of nation building that arose in the early 19th century), monolingualism was considered to be the norm. Education was provided in the language of the nation-state, which was regarded as the “mother tongue” of the school population. Other languages were considered to be “foreign languages,” which were taught to some students for purposes of international diplomacy or trade but were not considered as languages of learners' everyday lives. Traces of this tradition are still found in school systems worldwide, including in the United States. In contrast to “mother tongue” and “foreign language,” the terms first language and second language refer to the recognition that many learners use multiple languages in their everyday ...

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