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

 

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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!

 

A different way of seeing April 19, 2012

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality.

 

 
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