MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

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:


About tongues and languages: mixed feelings about bilingualism September 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 1:14 pm

I finally had the time to listen to all of this amazing BBC program about Multilingualism. Bridget Kendall talks to three academics about multilingualism: the science of bilingualism, bilingual children, and also being a bilingual exile. (The answer to how many languages one person is capable of learning: as many as you can fit in a day!)

I got tears in my eyes as I listened to Gustavo Pérez Firmat, a bilingual writer and poet, talk about his experience living as an exile from Cuba. He describes how he feels different about each of his languages: English is his happy language and Spanish his sad language. I often think about this: I also feel like a different person in Afrikaans (more outgoing, not afraid to state my opinion) than in English (more introvert, unsure). Maybe it is because I moved to the USA when I was 25, and even though I could read English, I wasn’t very fluent speaking it. I wonder how it will be different for our children, who grew up speaking Afrikaans and English since birth.

You can listen to Gustavo Pérez read his poem, Bilingual Blues, during this interview. It was one of the program’s highlights for me.

Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones.
I have mixed feelings about everything.
Name your tema, I’ll hedge;
name your cerca, I’ll straddle it
like a cubano.

I have mixed feelings about everything.
Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones.
Vexed, hexed, complexed,
hyphenated, oxygenated, illegally alienated,
psycho soy, cantando voy:
You say tomato,
I say tu madre;
You say potato,
I say Pototo.
Let’s call the hole
un hueco, the thing
a cosa, and if the cosa goes into the hueco,
consider yourself en casa,
consider yourself part of the family.

Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones,
un puré de impurezas:
a little square from Rubik’s Cuba
que nadie nunca acoplará.

So, download this podcast and listen to it when you have some time. You’ll learn why bilinguals get dementia about 4 years later than monolinguals, why it is a good idea to raise your kids with more than one language, and why a bilingual person’s brain has to work harder. Enjoy/Geniet!


Ouma Ruby’s Secret: book review of a South African children’s book August 5, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 7:28 am

I’m writing this review as part of the Read Around the World Summer Reading Series from Multicultural Kid Blogs.  Bloggers from around the world are sharing their book reviews of multicultural (and sometimes multilingual too) books for kids of all ages: Mondays are for ages 5 and under, Wednesdays for children 6-10, and Fridays for tweens and older. You can also see all of the recommendations on our Summer Reading Pinterest Board.

I’m recommending Ouma Ruby’s Secret, also available in Afrikaans as Ouma Ruby se geheim. We read the Afrikaans version at home. It is perfect for the 6-10 year old child. It will show a different world to them: where not everyone can read. About 16% of the world’s people are illiterate, and this book deals with the subject with compassion. It is the true story of a well-known South African author, Chris van Wyk, who describes how he found out as a young child that his grandmother can’t read. He was a book loving child who read anything that came across his way. When it was his grandmother’s birthday, he didn’t have a gift to give to her. So he wrote her a letter about how much he appreciates and loves her. When he asked her to read it aloud, he made the discovery that she can’t read. He ends up reading the letter to her. 

If you want to talk to your child about Apartheid South Africa, or illiteracy, or how poverty or political circumstances make it impossible for some kids to go to school, I can highly recommend this beautifully illustrated book.



idling myths & facts: let’s clear it up April 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 1:58 pm

This morning as I was running through downtown, I saw someone sleeping in their car, with the window open, and the car idling. It always surprises me to see people sitting in their parked car, just idling. Now, in the middle of winter I can (sometimes) understand it here in this freezing Michigan state, but in spring, with your window open? I found these myths and facts about idling:
Myth: The engine should be warmed up before driving.
Myth: Idling is good for your engine.
Myth: Shutting off and restarting your vehicle uses more gas than if you leave it running.
Fact: Idling adds to global warming.
Fact: Idling contributes to respiratory illness.
Fact: Idling wastes fuel.
– Idling your vehicle for more than just 10 seconds uses more fuel than restarting your engine.
– Idling your vehicle for just 10 minutes can use as much fuel as it takes to travel 5 miles.
So, shut off your engine the next time you are waiting for your kids to get out of school, and help our precious environment a little bit!


A Reconciliation Journey February 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 4:33 pm

We recently spoke about Reconciliation at church. You may have heard of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Here is my witness to reconciliation that I shared last Sunday:

My story of reconciliation is one that happened inside of me. According to Wikipedia: one definition of reconciliation is restoring mutual respect between individuals from different cultural backgrounds.

Growing up in SA, not far from Belhar, I was brought up with fears: Be afraid of the black danger, red/communism danger, Catholic danger… I had preconceived ideas about people who are different than me.

About 4 years ago, I read a book called The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew– Three Women Search for Understanding. It is a story of 3 women getting together to write a children’s book that shows the similarities in their faiths, but their journey takes a different turn and they start to get together regularly to have conversations about what they each believe. Over time, each woman becomes stronger in her own faith.

In the end of the book, they give advice on how to start a Faith Club. So here in Holland, I became part of a Faith Club. We are Muslim, Ba’hai, Evangelical and me. We come from different countries. We look different. We believe differently.

But just as in the book, I can say that interfaith dialogue made me grow in my own faith. It made me reflect on why I believe certain things. A couple of the women had babies recently, and as we celebrated new life, we spoke about different traditions surrounding the birth of a baby, and other celebrations while growing up. We come from different traditions, but we became friends.

My story of reconciliation happened inside of me, so that I now don’t see danger when people don’t believe the same as I do, or if they don’t look like I do. And my hope is that my children will not grow up with a fear of the other.


How will you choose to see in 2011? January 2, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 4:49 am
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It is the time of the year when we reflect on the year past, and think of the year to come. We plan, we make lists and resolutions, we dream. But have you thought about how you will choose to see your life, and the world around you?

A friend told me her view of life: you choose to tell your story in the way you want to see it. Are you seeing everything you are missing out on, or are you seeing those things in your life that are special: special friends, loving relationships, kindness in your kids. Do you tell your story as the places you haven’t seen, or do you tell about those special places that you had the chance of visiting. Do you tell about time you don’t have (time to exercise, time to read, time to relax) or do you tell your story as special moments in a full life.

May you see your life in 2011 full of many unexpected blessings.


A month in Zambia + insights from Mma Ramotswe October 19, 2010

Our family is living in Zambia for a month. If you need a map to find Zambia: Zambia borders Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe to the south, Malawi and Mozambique on the west, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, and Angola to the east.

We are enjoying the rhythms of African living – waking up with the birds singing outside (at 5.10 am), and our girls playing outside every day till the sun sets.

While the kids go to school in the mornings, and Jaco teaches at Justo Mwale Theological University College, I have a lot of time to read. I’ve read good books and bad books, fiction and non-fiction, travel books and a book about a Malawian “boy who harnessed the wind”. But my favorite books have been reading (again) the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. Mma Ramotswe, the first (and only) detective in Gabarone, Botswana, says so many things that are true about life, fun, applicable, thoughtful. Here are some of my favorites:

We are all children of Africa, and none of us is better or more important than the other. This is what Africa could say to the world: it could remind it what it is to be human.
– Tears of the giraffe

Stand on your toe. That is what one said in Setswana if one hoped that something would happen. It was the same as the expression which white people used: cross your fingers.
– Morality for beautiful girls

To lose your own language was like forgetting your mother, and as sad, in a way. We must not lose Setswana, she thought, even if we speak a great deal of English these days, because that would be like losing part of one’s soul.
– The full cupboard of life

They had no idea of botho, which meant respect or good manners. Botho set Botswana apart from other places; it is what made it a special place.
– The full cupboard of life

Life was far better, thought Mma Ramotswe, if we knew who we were.
– In the company of cheerful ladies

A life without stories would be no life at all. And stories bound us, did they not, one to another, the living to the dead, people to animals, people to the land?
– In the company of cheerful ladies

Warm blessings from warm Africa! Now off to go read some more…


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