Welcoming all languages

A school is a meeting place where students, parents and staff - often from diverse backgrounds - are united to share and build up knowledge. A Language Friendly School is an answer to the increasing multilingualism present in schools across the world; a result of people migrating to other places seeking employment, reuniting with loved ones or escaping war and conflict. Within a Language Friendly School, everyone welcomes and values all languages spoken by the students, the parents and the school stakeholders.

All schools should aim to become linguistically and culturally inclusive, meaning they recognize and embrace their students’ multilingualism, and take action to give space to these languages within the school community.

A bottom-up whole school approach

Language Friendly Schools are schools that have developed a language plan involving all members of the school: students, teachers and staff. It is a plan that is adapted to the school’s own needs and aims at creating an inclusive and language friendly learning environment for all students.

A Language Friendly School-plan is flexible, realistic and allows for incremental changes. Small steps go a long way!


With the Language Friendly School, we envision a world in which:

  1. All children have access to a language friendly-learning environment where they feel accepted and valued for who they are.
  2. No child is punished for speaking his or her mother tongues in school by 2030, the deadline of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Language Friendly Schools in action

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Multilingualism has become the norm rather than the exception. More and more schools consist of students who speak another language at home than the one that is used at school.

Scientific studies show that students learn better and faster when they also learn through their mother tongue, rather than being limited to learning only through the school language. 

Yet, it is estimated that over 200 million school children do not receive education in a language they understand. And in many countries, children are punished for speaking their home language at school.

By allowing students’ home languages in school, students get the chance to strengthen their cognitive and social skills. Not only does this improve students’ skills in the school language, but they also understand the subject better. And this enhances their chances for a successful school career and integration into the wider society, without losing the connection with their families, cultural backgrounds and knowledge.

An international commitment to children

All children have an equal right to an education that respects their cultural identity, according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 29).

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

By 2030, all boys and girls complete free, equitable and quality education that responds to and reflects the multilingual nature of the society (SDG 4; UNESCO 2017).


By allowing students’ home languages in school, multilingual students get the chance to strengthen their cognitive and social skills

How to become a Language Friendly School

The Language Friendly School does not provide a blueprint of what schools must do. Rather, it starts with what schools need and what they can realistically accomplish.

At the very minimum, schools commit not to punish children speaking their mother tongue. For some schools this is already a significant step. By connecting with other Language Friendly Schools they can share good practices and teachers can be inspired to take a next step forward.


Our Roadmap shows what Language Friendly Schools commit to. The first section shows the basic requirements of becoming a Language Friendly School. The Roadmap also provides ideas for activities as a school and in the classroom. These are all optional.

Learn More

All schools are welcome to join. The network is open for primary and secondary schools; international, private, public and many more. Is your school interested in becoming a Language Friendly School? Learn how here.

Benefits for Schools
  • Language Friendly Schools have access to an online platform to share ideas with other schools on multilingual teaching strategies, with online videos and webinars and the latest research findings.
  • Teachers and staff have the opportunity to meet each other during Language Friendly School Conferences; informal gatherings to exchange ideas, gather inspiration and make new friends from around the world.

The Language Friendly School is endorsed by leading experts in the field of mother tongue and multilingual education and the right to education of the child, including:

  • Prof. Jim Cummins, University of Toronto, Canada
  • Prof. Carol Benson, Columbia University, United States
  • Prof. Carol Anne Spreen, New York University, United States
  • Prof. Salim Vally, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Prof. Nathalie Auger, Université de Montpellier, France
Frequently Asked Questions


To achieve the goal of significantly eradicating the global practice of punishing children for speaking their mother tongue by 2030 and to provide language friendly learning environments for all children, the Language Friendly School initiative requires a broad base of partners and supporters.

The Language Friendly School is an initiative of the Rutu Foundation for Intercultural Multilingual Education, a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For more information please contact: