MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

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.

 

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Gedogen: Dutch tolerance September 1, 2017

Filed under: Culture,Languages,Untranslatable words — Michelle @ 9:00 am
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Amsterdam

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

 

 

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:

 

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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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!

 

Rethinking Junk December 31, 2014

Filed under: Be the change,Greener lifestyle — Michelle @ 3:55 pm
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During this break, I got the chance to read for fun again, something I haven’t done a lot since signing up to be a student again in August. I read the book Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter, and it opened my mind to the global world of recycling. Adam grew up as the son of a scrap dealer in Minneapolis, became a professional journalist and now lives in Shanghai.

Junkyard Planet

Recycling / junk / eyeopening book

The book explains what happens to our (recyclable) junk: e-waste, plastic, cars, metals, paper. It is not a pretty story, but it is efficient. Since our waste flows to the place where the biggest value can be extracted from it, and globalization made shipping from the west coast of the USA to China cheaper than shipping from California to Colorado, (think empty containers going back to China after delivering stuff) a lot of our waste ends up in China or other parts of the East. Cheap labor makes extraction and sorting of the valuable metals possible, something that would not happen here in the USA, where most of the waste would just end up in landfills if it wasn’t shipped elsewhere. Unfortunately, the extraction is not always done in a safe and healthy way, so there are two sides to this recycling story.

“Nothing – nothing – is 100 percent recyclable, and many things, including things we think are recyclable, like iPhone touch screens, are unrecyclable. Everyone from the local junkyard to Apple to the U.S. government would be doing the planet a big favor if they stopped implying otherwise, and instead conveyed a more realistic picture of what recycling can and can’t do.”

As an example, iPhone screens contain rare earth elements, that can’t be extracted from the glass. Paper cannot be recycled indefinitely. Plastic recycling is not very efficient either. Metals are different. Copper can be recycled indefinitely, but it is not always easy to get to the copper inside of a device or a cable. Thus the need of (cheap) labor, or (expensive) technology.

In the end, increasing the recycling rate isn’t going to save the world. We need to consume less, and waste less. Reduce, reuse, recycle: in that order. Or as Bea Johnson says in her book Zero Waste Home: Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. Junkyard Planet doesn’t give us answers, but it shows how the global world of recycling works. It is a very interesting read, if you are interested to know what happens to your junk after it leaves your recycling bin.

 

 
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