Culture around the world

Happy Mother Language Day!

Can you guess how many languages we speak in the Memrise office? Was the team built purposefully to represent the widest range of mother tongues? We’ll never know!

We have almost 20 different mother tongues represented in our open space. During the day we can hear various languages being spoken, which only reinforces our ultimate goal of teaching the world!

Why do we celebrate our mother tongues every year? Since 1999 UNESCO decided to place special importance on the value of linguistic, cultural diversity and multilingualism. We hope you’ll spend this day reflecting on your native language and its significance that it represents to you personally.

Watch our team speak their native tongues!

We asked some of our amazing Guest Bloggers to share a few thoughts with us when contemplating what their mother tongue means to them.

Lisa – Russian

My mother tongue is Russian and I’m thankful for it mostly, because I can easily read Russian literature in original. I also love how incredibly rich this language is. The morphological derivation in Russian is something never seen in any other language of the world.

I can’t imagine my life without speaking Russian on a daily basis. I mean I’m planning to move to another country, but I’d still continue communicating with my friends, relatives and reading literature in Russian.

However, I feel that Russian wasn’t meant to be my mother tongue, because I’m often having a hard time expressing my feelings in this language. Besides, I’m afraid to say something wrong grammatically or pronounce some word the wrong way. In other words, I am not confident when speaking Russian.

I don’t feel that I see the world differently because Russian is my mother tongue. I’m lucky to be able to learn new ways of thinking by speaking foreign languages. In general, I do not think that people see the world differently, because of what their mother tongue is. The reason lies more in the country they were born in.

Anirudh – Malayalam

I’m not a fan of terming languages as mother tongue, native language, foreign language, national language, etc. I’m much more comfortable with using the terms ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘third’ etc. when it comes to languages, and possibly ‘heritage’ language, where relevant. These terms appeal to me because they are better able to describe my reality.

My ‘mother’ tongue is Malayalam, widely spoken in Kerala, India. But I have very limited fluency in it, having grown up abroad, and speaking English, for the most part. I consider Malayalam my heritage language, because I use it strictly within a familial context, and mostly only with people older than me. For example, although I would speak it with my parents sometimes, I have never, in memory, spoken it to my brother.

Since moving out of my parents’ house 9 years ago, I’ve noticed that my command over the language has definitely dropped. On a visit to my grandparents’ home in Kerala once, only a year or so after I moved out, my parents realised I was losing it. My parents then insisted that I speak to them in Malayalam more often. Going from rarely speaking it to them, to almost always speaking it to them over a short period was rather strange, but I saw the benefits immediately.

Teddy – Hokkien & Indonesian

My ancestors came from China to Indonesia a very long time ago. People like me don’t consider ourselves Chinese as in Chinese from China, however, we still consider ourselves as people of Chinese ancestry, meaning the overseas Chinese generation.

I have two mother tongue languages, namely Hokkien and Indonesian. Hokkien because I am of Hokkien ethnic origin and Indonesian, because I am Indonesian. However, you need to know that not all Hokkien people in Indonesia speak Hokkien. These two languages are totally different, Hokkien is a tonal language and its grammar is similar to Chinese.

Knowing two languages of different language families helped me to learn foreign languages. In general, it is easier to learn languages of the same language family with the one you already speak.

Indonesian helped me learn some European languages, like English and Dutch. Thanks to the many loanwords from Dutch in Indonesian. On the other hand, Hokkien is a Chinese dialect, which means that it is easier to learn Mandarin and other Chinese dialects, although these languages are not interchangeable.

Maureen – English

My native language is English although in Scotland we also speak the Scots language which has various dialects throughout the country so it’s a bit like having two native languages.

I’m very interested in the various dialects of Scotland and I like reading poetry and stories written in the different dialects. In northern Scotland, particularly in the Orkney and Shetland islands, the dialects have a lot of Norwegian influence and these dialects are the ones that are the least similar to English.

The Scots language was not taught at school when I was younger but in recent years it has been introduced into the education system. I now live in England so the Scots language is not part of my daily life now but I automatically switch back to it when I go to Scotland.

Tell us about your native language! How has it formed and shaped your identity?

Happy Mother Language Day!

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