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Exclusion of mother tongue problematises identity construction

University of Leicester researcher calls for native language use in education

Issued on 09 June 2010

A doctoral study from the University of Leicester investigating the exclusion of the mother tongue in language education has raised concerns about its effects on students’ self-perception.

Exploring the role of Cypriot Dialect in secondary education on Cyprus, the researcher from the School of Education has identified a need for the inclusion of the dialect to aid students’ learning. Currently, Standard Modern Greek is the only language of the education system. Preliminary results from the study will be showcased at the University of Leicester’s Festival of Postgraduate Research on 24 June.

Doctoral student Elena Constantinou has come to these conclusions after undertaking classroom observations, group interviews with Greek language teachers and students and group task observations with students in southern Cyprus, where the majority of the population are Greek Cypriots and users of the Cypriot Dialect.

Elena comments:

“The current language policy ignores the fact that students’ mother tongue is the dialect and suggests that teachers use Standard Modern Greek as the only means of teaching. Therefore Greek language is used for official purposes: in education, the mass media and politics; whereas Cypriot Dialect, their mother tongue, is used in everyday interactions. The majority of my participants perceive their mother tongue as something special, indicating who they are.”

The findings suggest that exclusion of the mother tongue from the learning environment hinders students’ identity construction, language learning and critical thinking development.

It is hoped that this research will increase understanding of the effects of the current language policy and prompt a review of the role of students’ mother tongue in education on Cyprus.

“I am very enthusiastic to present my research at the festival and show to other people that the use or non-use of the mother tongue in education influences identity construction and the way students perceive themselves.”

• Elena Constantinou will be presenting her research to the public at the University of Leicester on Thursday 24 June in the Belvoir Suite, Charles Wilson Building between 11am and 1pm. The Festival of Postgraduate Research introduces employers and the public to the next generation of innovators and cutting edge researchers, and gives postgraduate researchers the opportunity to explain the real world implications to a wide ranging audience. This event is open to the public and free to attend.

More information at:

Note to Newsdesks:

For more information, please contact Elena Constantinou via

Amy Cory


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