I’m updating the World Words app with new untranslatable words. This is one of my favorite new words. Enjoy!
Forest bathing December 17, 2012
On acquiring language November 5, 2012
I recently watched this TED talk by Patricia Kuhl on how babies learn a language. It is very informative to learn about the research being done on acquiring a new language. She shows how it is critical for a person to interact with the baby: learning sounds through just audio or just television, doesn’t work at all!
In the video, she shows a graph about the “critical period” for learning a language: before age 7. In our family I know our kids have been able to learn Spanish much more easily than my husband and me. But I do have hope that it is still possible to learn a new language(s) after the age of 7!
It is upsetting to me that schools are shifting the learning of another language to Middle School or even later. We should learn from other countries where second language learning starts in Kindergarten.
I am so excited: the first MotherTongues app is here! It is available in the Apple app store for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and it is free!
10 Reasons you will LOVE the free World Words word-a-day app:
* Learn a new difficult-to-translage, life-affirming word every day.
I would appreciate it greatly if you can please rate the app after using it for a while.
In celebration of the release, use Coupon Code “WORLDWORDS” at www.MotherTongues.com, for 10% off plus free shipping (anywhere!), on all MotherTongues apparel and accessories! Valid till Friday, May 11, 2012. I hope to work on an Android version of the app soon – you can help me to make this possible by buying a MotherTongues t-shirt or postcard today!
With appreciation for supporting me on this journey,
22 Inspirational Language Quotes April 26, 2012
I love languages. I love listening to the different sounds. I love reading to my kids in different languages. I love it that we are a bilingual family, and that we are becoming a trilingual family.
But sometimes it is hard to make myself understood. We’ve had comments about our accents being different, and being difficult to understand. I have the hardest time speaking to customer service people over the phone. So it is good to read some quotes about the diversity of languages, and the benefits of multilingualism. Here are some of my favorites (from the MotherTongues website):
If you talk to [someone] in a language [he or she] understands, that goes to [the person's] head. If you talk to [somebody] in [his or her] language, that goes to [the] heart.
- Nelson Mandela
Speak a new language so that the world will be a new world.
Being exposed to the existence of other languages increases the perception that the world is populated by people who not only speak differently from oneself but whose cultures and philosophies are other than one’s own. Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry but by demonstrating that all people cry, laugh, eat, worry and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try to understand each other, we may even become friends.
- Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
How many languages are there in the world? How about 5 billion! Each of us talks, listens, and thinks in his/her own special language that has been shaped by our culture, experiences, profession, personality, mores and attitudes. The chances of us meeting someone else who talks the exact same language is pretty remote.
A special kind of beauty exists which is born in language, of language, and for language.
- Gaston Bachelard
For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change.
- Ingrid Bengis
Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.
- Orson Rega Card
To have another language is to possess a second soul.
Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.
- Rita Mae Brown
Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Those who know nothing of foreign languages, knows nothing of their own.
- Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
I am always sorry when any language is lost, because languages are the pedigrees of nations.
- Samuel Johnson
Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.
- Dave Barry
I have been a believer in the magic of language since, at a very early age, I discovered that some words got me into trouble and others got me out.
- Katherine Dunn
Language is wine upon the lips.
- Virginia Woolf
There are hundreds of languages in the world, but a smile speaks them all.
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.
- Toni Morrison
Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
- Benjamin Lee Whorf
If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.
- Kofi Annan
World Words makes a splash March 29, 2012
Check out yesterday’s article about MotherTongues and others using Kickstarter for crowdfunding, in our local paper the Holland Sentinel, and another MotherTongues article in Elemental Project - a positive news site. The news about World Words is spreading!
MotherTongues + you = Minga (you carry me)
Gracias / Dankie / Obrigada!
4 days left in the Kickstarter campaign, and quite a long way to go. I’m holding my thumbs, or crossing my fingers, or both.
English, the baffling language March 22, 2012
Poster available from BusyTeacher.org
I’m reading The Mother Tongue – English & How It Got That Way, by Bill Bryson. I keep bursting out with laughter as he describes the quirks of English. Here is an excerpt from the first page:
Imagine being a foreigner and having to learn that in English one tells a lie but the truth, that a person who says “I could care less” means the same thing as someone who says “I couldn’t care less”, … that when a person says to you, “How do you do?” he will be taken aback if you reply, with impeccable logic, “How do I do what?”
With our youngest daughter in Spanish Immersion School, and thus learning to read and write in Spanish, it is interesting for me to see how she is transferring her knowledge of reading from one language to the other. This has happened to our older daughter too, although the other way around: after learning to read in English, she can now read Spanish and Afrikaans too. I think that in Spanish the words are spelled much more phonetically, just like in Afrikaans. English spelling just doesn’t make sense to me. So when our youngest tries to read words like island, thought, ache, and which, it is no wonder that she is having difficulty!
How did you learn to read another language than your mother tongue? Did you have difficulty with it?
Calling all language lovers! March 15, 2012
I have an idea. And I need YOUR help to make it happen!
Through the years, I’ve collected a lot of words. These words celebrate cultures. These words can deepen our sense of community, peace and justice. These words are not easily translated into English, but require a phrase to best explain their meaning. These words will open your eyes to other languages, cultures, and ideas. These words will be fun to learn!
I need your help in creating a FREE iPhone & iPad app to share these words. This app will teach you a new foreign word every day, even helping you to pronounce the word correctly.
In the app you may discover a word such as Minga: a Quechua word from South America. It means to carry one another. Minga encourages you to gather your community to accomplish a task that benefits the whole community.
Or you may find out about Mudita: a Sanskrit word, meaning to find joy in someone else’s happiness. Mudita teaches us that there is enough happiness in the world for all.
I’ve set up a Kickstarter project to get the seed money for the app. Would you please check it out, watch the 2 minute video, and share, share, share with your network on Facebook, email or Twitter? I need a Minga to make this happen
I also have great MotherTongues incentives (read: t-shirts, aprons, postcards, and some exclusive one-of-a-kind rewards) for you should you be interested in supporting this project. Please go check it out!
Dankie/Gracias/Thank you! I’m forever grateful.
Get support in learning a (new) language March 10, 2012
Are you trying to learn a new language, helping your kids to learn a new language, or brushing up on some forgotten language skills? It can be daunting to know where to start, where to find resources, and what online programs to try. But don’t despair, help is here!
Multilingual Living, one of my favorite websites, is hosting Language Challenge 180! It is a free, (yes free!) 180 day challenge, to help you turn your language learning around 180 degrees. More than 600 families have signed up already. We’re getting step-by-step guides to get on track with our language(s), tips and articles to help us along, and best of all for me so far: a place where others, trying to learn the same language(s) as you, post what resources they already found helpful. I find this camaraderie so supportive and helpful.
Just knowing that other families are struggling with the same problems as us, is already helping me along. I struggle with finding time and fun ways to engage our kids in language learning after a full day at school. Language Challenge 180 breaks it into small steps – 15 minutes a day! – and makes it feel much more achievable.
If you have more than one language in your house, and you are trying to grow your language skills, sign up today! I’ll see you over on the forum pages!
Do you know a word or phrase, in a language other than English, which you don’t quite know how to translate into English? Or definitely can’t translate into only one English word? Does this word have a positive meaning? Or does it talk about peace, justice, the environment, community? Or is it just a fun word? Then I’d love to hear about it!
I’m developing a (free) MotherTongues app for the iPhone and iPad that will teach you one interesting word each day of the year. I would like to have words from a wide variety of languages.
Some examples of words that I already have on my list (other than the MotherTongues words already on t-shirts):
Gökotta (Swedish): To wake up early in the morning, with the purpose of going outside to hear the first birds sings.
Yoko meshi (Japanese): A metaphor for the stress of trying to understand another language. The literal translation is a meal that is eaten sideways. Given that Japanese is read vertically and most languages are read horizontally, the expression captures the mind-bending challenge of processing words in new ways.
In La ‘Kesh (Mayan): We are different faces of each other.
If you know any fun, positive, cultural words in ANY language (but English), please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I end up using the word, I’ll send you a MotherTongues gift (and a link to the free app!)
Dankie! Merci! Gracias! Mahalo!
Celebrate Your Mother Tongue February 21, 2012
Today, February 21, is International Mother Language Day. This day was proclaimed by UNESCO “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of two national languages of Pakistan (then), were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh (now).
Having grown up during Apartheid in South Africa, I know that June 16, 1976 carries similar significance for South Africans that February 21, 1952 does for the Bangladeshi people. This is the day that school children in Soweto protested the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in secondary schools. The government forced Afrikaans education onto children who didn’t speak it. Police killed about 176 students during the Soweto uprising – the photo of Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo after being shot, became the iconic image of the day. The day is now commemorated as Youth Day, a public holiday, in South Africa. Since my mother tongue is Afrikaans, I’m filled with sadness about what happened in the name of my mother language. South Africa now has 11 national languages, but mother language instruction is sadly still not always available in all locations.
Celebrating International Mother Language Day is a way to promote our unity in diversity. Our world is richer because of multilingualism and multiculturalism.
“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.” - Kofi Annan
How will you celebrate your mother tongue today? I’m planning to sponsor a word in the Afrikaans dictionary (a fundraising way for survival of the dictionary), read only Afrikaans books for our evening reading ritual, and learn a new word in an unfamiliar language.
Happy International Mother Language Day!