MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Love and Relationships September 22, 2017

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It may not be Valentine’s Day, but who doesn’t like words describing love and relationships? Love is magical, it doesn’t matter what language you are describing it in. Some of these words are from a wonderful book by Erin McKean: “That’s Amore! The Language of Love for Lovers of Language”. Check it out to find more such words describing love in all its magical ways.

Kilig – Tagalog (Indonesia). The butterflies-in-your-stomach feeling you get when you are in love.

œillade – French. The way that lovers glance at each other.

Mamihlapinatapai – Yagán (Tierra del Fuego area of Argentinia). The moment when two pairs of eyes meet in recognition.

Puszipajtás – Hungarian. Someone you know well enough to kiss in the street. (Here in the USA, we definitely don’t kiss anyone in the street!)

Cwtch – Welsh. A warm cuddle showing love and acceptance.

Koi no yokan – Japanese. Knowing that the person you just met, is destined to be a future partner.

Acaronar – Catalán (Andorra, Spain, Italy, France). Drawing someone closer tenderly.

Akoma Ntoaso – Twi (Ghana). This is a symbol of unity and restored relationships, symbolizing joined hearts.

Hartendief – Dutch (Netherlands). Said with love to someone who stole your heart. Literally, this means “thief of my heart”.

Yuanfen – Chinese. A relationship fated by destiny. The binding force that sustains the relationship.

Anam ċara – Gaelic. The soul mate that offers you honesty and belonging.

Alamnaka – Ulwa (Nicaragua). To meet a kindred soul. To find a relationship unlike any other you’ve had.

Forelskelt – Norwegian, Danish. The euphoria you feel when first feeling in love.

May you experience these words about love!

 

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Helping Words September 15, 2017

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If the words we use to describe helping each other are different in diverse cultural (and language) contexts, does that mean that we help each other differently? Or are we just describing our way of helping differently?

Here are some helping words that I’ve come across, used on different continents:

Ubuntu – Zulu and Xhosa, South Africa. Ubuntu describes the idea of community in Africa: if you are a better person, that makes me a better person because we are all connected. “I am, because of who we are.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu described ubuntu as “…part of the gift that Africa will give the world. It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being willing to go the extra mile for the sake of another. We believe that a person is a person through other persons, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours.” The Ubuntu t-shirt is also the bestselling MotherTongues t-shirt.

Maestranza – Spanish. In Season 1 of Chef’s Table (a Netflix original), Francis Mallman describes maestranza as the people who are around you, helping. I can’t easily find more information about maestranza online: is it a word from Argentina, or a Spanish word used widely? Please comment if you know more!

Pamoja, Pamoja – Swahili, Tanzania. This saying, literally meaning “together, together”, is used to describe togetherness as one. When we stand together, we are strong.

Minga – Quecha, a family of South American languages. A minga is called when the community needs to build a school, repair a road, or needs some other community infrastructure. This gathering is hopeful and happy, with families and neighbors coming together to do something that benefits the whole community. Every person and every community will need the help of others at some point. This South American word, which also exists as a concept in other words and cultures, teaches us how to work together joyfully for the common good of the community.

Yuimaru – Japanese. Meaning “the connecting circle”, yuimaru describes the web of life. It is used to talk about the practice of sharing and helping each other out, the spirit of cooperation, taking care of each other.

Sitike – Apache: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. The group of (unrelated) people who will step up and help you in your time of crisis. We all need such a group!

Maybe it doesn’t matter that we use different words to describe how we help each other. Maybe it is just important to go out and help.

 

Travel Words September 8, 2017

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Untranslatable words inspire me, since it teaches me something unique about another culture. Travel inspires me, since the new sights, sounds, smells and tastes teach me about another way of living. Combine untranslatable words and travel, and you get these inspirational words:

Vacilando – Spanish, Portuguese verb. To travel with the knowledge that the journey is more important than reaching a destination. This is true about life in general!

Lebensgefährtin – German (female) noun. The companion willing to seek adventure and travel life’s road with you.

Phượt – Vietnamese noun. To travel by letting your feet guide your way. Unplanned travel is sometimes the best way to explore!

Inuksuk – Inuktitut noun. Inuktitut is spoken by the Inuit people in Canada and Alaska. Inuksuks are large stone signposts of values and navigation: it can welcome guests, guide travelers, and ensure safe passage. I love the symbolism of an inuksuk – I’ve even used it on a MotherTongues scarf.

Wanderlust – German noun. An irresistible urge to travel to and explore foreign places. I definitely have wanderlust…

May we all find a lebensgefährtin who will vacilando with us!

  • See the MotherTongues app World Words for more of these untranslatable words.

 

 

Gedogen: Dutch tolerance September 1, 2017

Filed under: Culture,Languages,Untranslatable words — Michelle @ 9:00 am
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The Dutch has a word that means the opposite of zero tolerance. Gedogen cannot be directly translated into one English word. It means something is to be tolerated, but not in a passive sense like “to tolerate” normally implies. Certain parts of Dutch life (I’ll leave it up to your imagination, just think of the activities that Amsterdam is famous for…) is technically illegal, but it is actively tolerated.

For social matters without one clear solution and where it is obvious that the problem cannot be solved by prosecution, Dutch society (and the law) will decide to gedoog it. Enforcement of certain matters will be flexible. You can even say that the Dutch will be accommodating instead of trying to do the impractical.

If something has been gedoogd, it is not legal, but also not illegal. Now let that idea sink in!

 

 

Celebrate our language diversity February 16, 2016

February 21 is International Mother Language Day. UNESCO started this celebration day “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. With roughly 6500 languages spoken around the word, we have a lot to preserve, protect and celebrate.

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The theme of Mother Language Day 2016 is “Quality education, language(s) of instruction and learning outcomes”. Mmm. That is a mouthful. Basically, UNESCO wants to stress the importance of appropriate languages of instruction in early years of schooling. Sadly, it is still not the norm everywhere to be able to go to school in your mother language.

I got schooled in my mother tongue (Afrikaans) when growing up in Apartheid South Africa, and I’ve written how awful things were done in the name of my mother tongue. The history of Mother Language Day is a similar story than the South African narrative where students were forced to learn in Afrikaans, the language of the oppressor. On February 21, 1952, students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, which is now the capital of Bangladesh. We remember these horrible events, honor the people who died in the process of standing up for their language, and then we try to promote language diversity in our sphere of influence.

I believe mother language instruction for young kids gives kids access to education. My daughter was in a two-way bilingual immersion program where half the class where Spanish speaking, some exclusively so. The Spanish speaking kids learned from the English speaking kids, and vice versa. Everyone is a learner and a teacher.

But since we chose to live in another country, where our mother tongue is not being spoken, I know mother language instruction is not possible for our girls. Instead, we made a choice to foster a love of language learning in our kids. They are proud to be (almost) trilingual, they enjoy showing off their language skills when meeting people who can speak Afrikaans or Spanish, and I know they will continue their multilingual journeys throughout their lives. Let us encourage each other to continue our language journeys, and let us encourage others to be proud of their mother language, whatever one of the 6500 languages it may be.

“A Senegalese poet said ‘In the end we will conserve only what we love. We love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.’ We must learn about other cultures (and I would add, languages) in order to understand, in order to love, and in order to preserve our common world heritage.”
– Yo Yo Ma

 

 

Multicultural Kid Blogs Vlogging Telephone: “Raising multilingual kids” August 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 1:24 pm
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Welcome to the Multicultural Kid Blogs Vlogging Telephone. We’re asking each other questions about raising multilingual kids. Since our kids are now preteens/teenagers, this subject has been on my mind for over 13 years now! But we definitely don’t have it figured out (do you ever have anything figured out with kids?) so it will be fun to listen to everyone’s answers on their blogs.

For the Travel Telephone, I’m in between Eolia from La Cité des Vents, who is asking me a question, and Audrey from Españolita, who is answering my question.

Enjoy our travel telephone! Here we go:

 

Doctor Me Di Cin: Book Review of a multicultural children’s book August 4, 2015

Filed under: Bilingual / Multilingual — Michelle @ 8:45 am
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I loved reading to our girls when they were little. We read books in Afrikaans, English, and sometimes Spanish. Through stories from different cultures and in different languages, we showed them a world filled with a beautiful rainbow of people.

One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou: 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 (and I would add reading) 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.
– Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

Doctor Me Di Cin (we read it in Afrikaans, but there are translations in many languages) is a wonderful story set in ancient China. The story and the beautiful illustrations make this a great book to read with the wonderful message that nature and fresh air and exercise can heal us – emotionally and physically.

Our girls now read for themselves. I love to see how their worlds get bigger with every book, and I like to believe we started that process with books such as this one.


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Recommended ages: Ages 6-10. 

This book review is part of the second annual Read Around the World Summer Reading Series from Multicultural Kid Blogs.  Follow along on our website, Facebook page or Pinterest page for great book recommendations for kids of all ages!

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