MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Celebrate Your Mother Tongue February 21, 2012

Today, February 21, is International Mother Language Day. This day was proclaimed by UNESCO “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of two national languages of Pakistan (then), were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh (now).

Having grown up during Apartheid in South Africa, I know that June 16, 1976 carries similar significance for South Africans that February 21, 1952 does for the Bangladeshi people. This is the day that school children in Soweto protested the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in secondary schools. The government forced Afrikaans education onto children who didn’t speak it. Police killed about 176 students during the Soweto uprising – the photo of Hector Pieterson being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo after being shot, became the iconic image of the day. The day is now commemorated as Youth Day, a public holiday, in South Africa. Since my mother tongue is Afrikaans, I’m filled with sadness about what happened in the name of my mother language. South Africa now has 11 national languages, but mother language instruction is sadly still not always available in all locations.

Celebrating International Mother Language Day is a way to promote our unity in diversity. Our world is richer because of multilingualism and multiculturalism.

“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.” 
- Kofi Annan


How will you celebrate your mother tongue today? I’m planning to sponsor a word in the Afrikaans dictionary (a fundraising way for survival of the dictionary), read only Afrikaans books for our evening reading ritual, and learn a new word in an unfamiliar language.

Happy International Mother Language Day!

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11 words for peace from 1 country January 5, 2012

Filed under: Languages — Michelle @ 12:13 pm
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The Constitution of South Africa names eleven official languages:

“The official languages of the Republic are Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa and isiZulu.”

As a side note, this makes South Africa only second to India, which recognizes 23 official languages in its Constitution, with the number of dialects as high as 1,650!

Most South Africans can speak more than one language. Growing up, I never appreciated the wonder of hearing different sounds and languages around you every day; to hear the rhythms of a language even though you don’t understand what is being said.

Here are 11 words for peace, in the national languages of South Africa. May your year be filled with peace, in whichever language you choose to say it!

Xhosa: uxolo

Zulu and Ndebele: ukuthula

Tsonga: ku rhula

Venda: mulalo

English: peace

Sesotho: kgotso

Afrikaans: vrede

Tswana: kagiso

Northern Sotho/Sepedi: khutšo

Swati: lucolo

 

Ubuntu at the World Cup July 16, 2010

Filed under: Ubuntu in the news — Michelle @ 9:31 pm
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Shari Cohen recently wrote 3 blog posts in the Huffington Post about Ubuntu and her time in South Africa during the Soccer World Cup. In the first one she writes about all the money spent on the new stadiums, and wonders whether it could have been put to better use. Or at least FIFA could have helped with some of the social problems in South Africa.

The 2nd one was very positive about her experience of Ubuntu in South Africa, and was mailed around by South Africans everywhere, and even reprinted in South African newspapers. We South Africans love positive news about our country, probably because there aren’t good news so often… It has been 5 years since I designed my best selling MotherTongues t-shirt, the Ubuntu: I am because we are T-shirt. I love the African concept, even if I know it isn’t true for all South Africans, but I believe it is a beautiful community value to strive towards, doesn’t matter where in the world you live.

So I was glad to read Shari’s third blog today, about what is next for South Africa, after the tourists and the soccer players left. I’ll forever be hopeful that South Africans (and I’m including myself, even though I’ve lived in the USA for the past 15 years) can come together and make a change for the better – even if it is only in your own community. Because that is where change starts.

Thanks Shari, for highlighting Ubuntu – the good and the bad – and for letting South Africans feel good about ourselves, but also making us think about what to do next.

 

South Africa 20 years later: 2 beautiful letters February 6, 2010

This week (February 2) it was 20 years since FW de Klerk’s famous opening of Parliament speech in which he announced that Nelson Mandela will be released (which happened 9 days later). I can still remember watching the speech on television (I was in college) and realizing that this is an amazing speech signifying a whole new era for South Africa.

Here are 2 beautiful letters written recently by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to FW de Klerk commemorating the event. My favorite part is in Tutu’s letter: “If the second of February were to become an annual holiday I would propose it should be called Ubuntu Day. South Africa would tear down its Berlin Wall, you said, because South Africans were dependent on one another – all of us.”

Read and enjoy!

Letter from Nelson Mandela to FW de Klerk


Letter from Desmond Tutu to FW de Klerk

 

Beautiful Ubuntu video from Global Oneness Project September 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michelle @ 9:08 am
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This Ubuntu Video from the Global Oneness Project is 8 minutes of beautiful descriptions, music, sights, describing this South African concept. It explains Ubuntu better than I ever can – although I’ve tried to describe it for the MotherTongues ubuntu t-shirts! I love Credo Mutwa (a traditional sangoma)’s  description: “Ubuntu is nothing more or less than compassion brought into colorful practice.”

 

 

 
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