MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Joie de vivre October 13, 2017

Filed under: Languages,Untranslatable words — Michelle @ 9:00 am
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This photo of a MotherTongues joie de vivre pillow in my sister’s house in South Africa, makes me happy. We all know this French phrase, but do we all know what it is to feel alive with the joy of living? My hope for you is that you will get to know this feeling. I feel it when I travel, when I watch my children grow up, and when I walk in nature.

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Ubuntu – I am what I am, because we are September 29, 2017

Filed under: Languages,Ubuntu in the news,Untranslatable words — Michelle @ 9:00 am
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I’ve written about Ubuntu before, many, many, many times. It is such a powerful word, that describes an important piece of African culture so beautifully. So when a customer sent me this photo, of her tattoo in the exact same font as the MotherTongues t-shirt, I just had to share it! Please send me your photos: I’d love to see where MotherTongues t-shirts (or tattoos) have traveled!

 

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.

 

 

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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