MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

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.

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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

 

 

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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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.

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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.

 

 

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

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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.

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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!

 

Singing our way to 3 languages September 23, 2013

language and music Stevie Wonder

We are a bilingual family, trying to become trilingual. Our kids are fluent in Afrikaans, even though they were born here in the USA and don’t hear Afrikaans outside of our house on a regular basis. So we are always looking for ways to reinforce their second language. One of the ways we have found to work for us, is lots and lots of music.

We love listening to music. When the kids were babies, we listened and sang Afrikaans children’s songs all the time. Repetition helped them to learn the words – it is such a fun way to learn more vocabulary.

Now that they are a bit older, we’re all learning Spanish. Listening to Marta Gómez and Peret help us to get used to the sounds and rhythm of the language. Afrikaans music is still part of our house – the kids know lots of songs by heart.

Here are my tips to use music to help your kids’ language learning:

1. Sing to your kids when they are babies and toddlers, and then sing with your kids once they can follow along.

2. If the language you are trying to teach your kids have DVDs or YouTube videos with singing characters for kids, make sure you get them. In Afrikaans we have Lollos – the kids have enjoyed it for many years. If the songs have subtitles, so much better!

3. Figure out who are your kids favorite musicians in the language of choice, and sing along to the songs in the car.

4. Nurture a love for music in your kids, and who knows where it will take them!

 

 
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