MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

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

 

 

What a beautiful rainbow world it is January 12, 2015

Filed under: Culture — Michelle @ 8:00 am
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I recently received a copy of the book Beautiful Rainbow World by Suzee Ramirez and Lynne Raspet to review. This photography book contains beautiful photos of kids from around the world, with the lyrics from a song by Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou. The song is available for download with the purchase of the book.

The song and photos share the deep truth that we may each look different, speak different languages and have different customs, but we make up a beautiful rainbow world. We are unique, yet similar. Our diversity is to be celebrated and enjoyed.

If you want your kids to grow up appreciating and celebrating the diversity surrounding them, I can highly recommend this book. It will make a great baby gift too.

This video shows some of the photos from the book. Enjoy, share, sing-along and smile!

 

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.

 

 

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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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?

 

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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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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