MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

I am from May 12, 2014

Filed under: Bilingual / Multilingual,Culture — Michelle @ 5:32 pm
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I’ve read other people’s beautiful “I am from” poems, inspired by “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon. I’ve always wanted to write my own, and when I saw that this month’s Multicultural Kid Blogs Blogging Carnival has the theme “Where are you from?”, I thought this would be a perfect time to sit down and finally write mine. Luckily there are templates to make the process easier for non-writers like me. So, here it is.

turksvye

I am from

I am from bright blue African skies and wide open spaces
From watching the rain fall for three days straight
From Oros and Appletizer and curry.

I am from the white house with the thatched roof,
With the sweet smell of wisteria hanging over the stoep during springtime.
I am from picking buckets full of wild proteas & calla lilies,
From the syringa tree on whose long limbs I sat reading many sticky summer afternoons.

I am from freckles and brown eyes
From Mike and Renée
I’m from praying before a meal and holding my thumbs
And from dropping in at five for a cup of tea and staying for a glass of wine and dinner.

I’m from keeping quiet when you get mad and “us” and “them”
And Cry the Beloved Country.
I’m from hiking in the mountains on Sunday afternoons.
I’m from Stellenbosch and Afrikaans,
bobotie and braaivleis.

I am from moving 8350 miles to a different culture,
crossing the ocean every two years to go home
And then not feeling like it is home anymore.

I am from living between two continents.

 

 

Multicultural Kid Blogs Travel Telephone February 17, 2014

Filed under: Culture,Travel — Michelle @ 10:01 am
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Welcome to the Multicultural Kid Blogs Travel Telephone. We’re asking each other questions about traveling with our kids – one of my favorite things to do!

I’m in between Leanna from All Done Monkey, who is asking me a question, and Ashley from Family on the Loose, who is answering my question.

So enjoy our circular ride!

A photo from our fun travel detour, of the girls with our local guide on the Mayan ruins:

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World Cancer Day: do something February 3, 2014

Tomorrow, February 4, is World Cancer Day. I’m sure all of us have been affected personally by cancer: be it ourselves or a family member or a friend. Let’s stand strong against cancer on this day, celebrating the survivors among us and raising awareness.

So what can we do to mark World Cancer Day? You can find events around the world here, you can spread the Debunk the Myths message through Social Media, you can purple your profile (and Chevrolet will donate $1 to the American Cancer Society), or you can donate to the American Cancer Society.

I’d like to do something too. The MotherTongues Sisu t-shirt describes the determination to get things done against impossible odds. The Dancing Woman labyrinth on the back is a symbol of women’s strength and compassion. Normally, $1 of every Sisu t-shirt sold is donated to the American Cancer Society. For this week, till February 8, MotherTongues will donate $5 of every Sisu t-shirt sold to the American Cancer Society. The shirt is available in women’s cut and unisex tees, with a little purple in the design to celebrate cancer survival. Let’s do something!

Thanks for joining me,
Michelle @ MotherTongues

 

10 untranslatable words about food and eating January 28, 2014

Filed under: Culture,Languages,Untranslatable words — Michelle @ 8:00 am
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“One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”
~ Laurie Colwin ‘Home Cooking’

words for cutlery

This wall of words is in our favorite little falafel restaurant in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. (It is called Falafel, and Hugo makes the most amazing food!)

I love cooking. And eating. And especially doing both with friends and family. So when I collected untranslatable words for the MotherTongues slow food apron and for the MotherTongues World Words app, I really enjoyed coming across these foodie words. You’ll have to download the World Words app to find the pronunciation of these words, but here they are in writing:

Stammtisch (German noun) ~ A regular get-together in the same place around the same table, enjoying food, drink or philosophical discussions.

Utepils (Norwegian noun) ~ The first beer one drinks outside after an extensive period of cabin fever: imagine spring arriving after a long winter. (I think most of us in the Northern Hemisphere can do with an Utepils right now!)

Au pif (French adverb) ~ Literally “by the nose”, this adverb describes being creative with your cooking: using your intuition and following your nose!

Itadakimasu (Japanese phrase) ~ Said before a meal, this expresses gratitude to all who cultivated, hunted, or prepared, and to the animals and plants.

Muka (Hawaiian noun) ~ The sound of smacking your lips, done to indicate that you are eating a scrumptious meal.

Slappare (Italian verb) ~ Eating everything, leaving your plate as if it has been licked clean.

Sobremesa (Spanish noun) ~ The time spent around the table after the meal, savoring food and friendship. My favorite time!

Fika (Swedish verb or noun) ~ Meeting a friend over a cup of coffee or tea, enjoyed with a tasty bite.

Craic (Irish noun) ~ Moments where fun, food and friendship unite.

And this last one is a favorite word in our family. My nephew knew he had one, even though it took us 20 years to learn there existed a word for it!
Betsubara (Japanese noun) ~ The portion of one’s stomach reserved for desserts only.

Do you have any words about food, cooking and eating from your language(s) to add?

 

Journey of a Planet Money t-shirt January 20, 2014

animal spirits planet money t-shirt

In the beginning of December, NPR’s Planet Money did a great piece on the journey of a t-shirt. This was funded by more than 20 000 people through their Kickstarter campaign.

Ecouterre wrote a nice synopsis of the 5 movie chapters that make up the Planet Money story.  The journalists followed the t-shirts from the cotton fields of the Mississippi Delta to the spinning of the yarn in Indonesia to the cutting and sewing in Bangladesh (women’s shirt) or Colombia (men’s shirt), back to Miami and then to Brooklyn to be printed and shipped to the new owners. Along the way they highlight the machines that harvest the cotton and make the yarn and the fabric, the people who sew the t-shirts, and the boxes that ship the shirts around the world.

I’ve read some rebuttals about the martini drinking squirrel t-shirt. By the way, there is actually a cool story behind the animal spirits design, and there are lots of people who didn’t like the design or pink color. But I think the bigger questions are more important: TS Designs asked why Planet Money didn’t follow a Made in the USA t-shirt, and Lyle Estill wondered why the reporting didn’t include the real costs of a cheap t-shirt: the cost to the environment, and the cost of people dying in the process of making our cheap clothing.

My favorite rebuttal is Stephen Colbert interviewing Alex Blumberg from Planet Money. I think he asked good questions (“Are we helping these people (the garment workers of Bangladesh) or taking advantage of these people?”) that doesn’t have easy answers. Alex Blumberg doesn’t seem to know how to answer the question of sweatshop labor either. The Planet Money piece tries to spin the cheap labor in Bangladesh ($80 per month payment for garment workers for 6 days of work per week) into not-so-bad, since people at least have some job with an income. But I totally disagree.

A while ago I wrote about Kelsey Timmerman’s book “Where am I wearing?”, where he went to the factories where his clothes were made, and through his stories, introduced us to the people who work there. He had a similar argument than Planet Money has: some job is better than no job. But I wonder if a job where you have no rights, no contract, no time off, no health care, can really be a good thing?

A couple of years ago, my husband visited one of his students in Bangladesh. In the capital, Dhaka, he saw garment factories with giant signs saying “No child labor”. But people told him that it is well known when the inspectors will be there. On those days, the children just don’t show up for work.

It is stated in the “Cotton” part of the Planet Money story that the USA is the largest exporter of cotton in the world, and that this dominance is because of the technology used by the USA farmers. Having read The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy, the book that inspired Planet Money to do this investigation, I think government subsidies are also a big part of this picture. American cotton is artificially cheap because of subsidies, which prohibits other countries to grow cotton crops and compete on the world market.

I wish the Planet Money piece showed us not just the way (most of) our clothing is being made right now, but the way it could be. Made in the USA, organic cotton, fair trade certified clothing, fair labor factories, water-based inks: there are so many better options than a $2 t-shirt (see the explanation of costs at the bottom of the boxes page). Better for the environment, better for the people who make it, better for us who wear it.

Maybe Planet Money should do a follow-up story. And find a better t-shirt designer (hint-hint).

 

Art inspiration while traveling January 6, 2014

Whenever we travel, I love to snap photos with my phone of interesting art, crafts, places. I look at these during the long gray winter days back home, to give me new inspiration and ideas for MotherTongues. I think traveling and exposing your kids to different ideas, cultures, music and art, open their minds and help them to become comfortable in cultures other than their own.

Here are some random photos I’ve taken during our last couple of trips to South Africa and Mexico. Now I’m inspired to go make something!

Labyrinths in nature:

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Play spaces:

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Pillows:

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Brands we know, seen in a different light:

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Local art:

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Outdoor art:
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September Blogging Carnival: Raising Multilingual Children September 29, 2013

blogcarnival

Welcome to the September installment of the Multilingual Blogging Carnival! I’m glad to be hosting this month, after Perogies & Gyoza did a wonderful job last month putting our stories together.

For more information about the Multilingual Blogging Carnival, or to sign up as a host or participant, please check out the wonderful organizer of it all, Piri-Piri Lexicon!

I picked for a theme this month “Music and Language” – how do you use music in your kids’ language journey? We always have music going in our house, and it is so fun to hear the kids sing in Afrikaans, English, Spanish! I got some fun responses, I hope you’ll enjoy reading them as much as I did!

From Bilingual Monkeys we hear how the power of music nurtures bilingual ability, with some great tips on making suitable choices for music around the house.

Bringing Up Baby Bilingual reminds us that music is a great way to learn languages, for children and adults!  She also lists 7 great reasons why you should sing to learn a new language: this is definitely new inspiration for me in my language journey!

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Piri-Piri Lexicon did an amazing job to tell us about the research findings why music is good for language learning. Definitely a good reminder of why it is good for us to listen to lots of music!

The Creative World of Varya shares a song from a friend, that she then translated into Russian: how neat! She also tells us how powerful music can be, and how it can be relaxing for children.

The Head of the Heard tells us about the music in their family: maybe more Wheels on the Bus than their musical heritage from Brazil and Britain right now, but it sounds like they are off to a good start with bed time songs.

language and music Stevie Wonder

From Babelkid we have an example of singing a French song to learn grammar: have you made up some songs to teach your kids a language?

Open Hearts, Open Minds writes about the fun of singing with her son in Spanish: at concerts, with CDs, but also made up silly songs.

Taco de Lenguas gives us nice resources of finger games and rhymes in Spanish. This is especially nice to know if you are trying to teach your child a language that you are not that familiar with!

Bilingüeabies tells us about the calming effect of music, and how it can be used in class to help with language learning.

Lastly, I share my tips to use music to help your kids’ language learning, as we sing our way to 3 languages!

Enjoy reading, listening, and singing along, and post some comments on each other’s blogs so that we can build our community!

 

 
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