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

 

 

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?

 

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.

language and music Stevie Wonder

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!

 

 
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