MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

6 untranslatable words about community April 12, 2012

Words about community

As I’m working on the World Words app, that will teach you one life-affirming word a day, I enjoy finding words that show us how diverse cultures view community. Here are some of my favorite words about community. To hear the pronunciation, you’ll have to download the app when it becomes available!

  • Ubuntu: Zulu, Xhosa, South Africa. “I am because we are.” Find your identity in the relationships you treasure. Nurture a sense of belonging.
  • Wantok: Tok Pisin, Papaua New Guinea. The community where I find belonging: we speak the same language and are responsible for each other.
  • Yuimaru: Japanese. The practice of sharing and helping each other. This is Japanese cultural legacy from the time of small rural villages, when people depended on each other.
  • Inati: Tokelauan, Tokelau (a territory of New Zealand). A communal fishing practice where resources are gathered and shared amongst all, securing the wellbeing of young and old.
  • Nam-jai: Thai. It literally means “water of the heart”, and describes the willingness to sacrifice for friends and extend hospitality to strangers.
  • Minga: Quechua, a family of South American languages. “Carry one another.” Community members gather to accomplish a task that benefits all. A good example of a Minga would be an Amish barn raising. In our community, we have a Women’s Service Day, where over a hundred women get together to help local non-profits by painting, gardening, building, fixing.

Maybe we can learn from each other. Actually, I’m sure we can learn from each other! How do you shape your own communities according to your values?

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