Sociolinguistics

MOTHER TONGUE

MOTHER TONGUE

Mother tongue is a common expression that is also often presented as popular language , mother tongue , native language or first language . It defines, as is clear from the meaning of the two words that form it, to the first language that an individual manages to dominate or, in other words, to the language spoken in a given nation with respect to its natives

Ultimately, the mother tongue is the one that is best known and understood, in terms of the subjective assessment that the person carries out with respect to the languages ​​they speak. It is also about that language that is acquired naturally through interaction with the immediate environment, without > pedagogical interventions and without a consciously developed linguistic reflection .

In general, the mother tongue is known and incorporated from the family. The ability in the mother tongue is essential for subsequent learning as it forms the basis of thinking. On the other hand, a partial mastery of the mother tongue hinders the process of assimilation of other languages.

According to the theories of Noam Chomsky and other linguists, the mother tongue can be learned until approximately twelve years of age. Once this period is over, the linguistic abilities of each person are different and every language incorporated becomes a second language.

After the apparent simplicity of the concept of the mother tongue lies a cluster of factors that sometimes contradict each other, so the term mother tongue is not always univocal. The complexity of the term is evident if one compares what some users of the language, including specialists, understand by mother tongue; Here are some criteria considered in the characterization of the concept:

  1. the mother’s own language;
  2. the usual language within the family, transmitted from generation to generation;
  3. the first language that one learns, the language in which one begins to know the world ;
  4. the language in which one thinks, the one that knows best and in which one communicates with greater spontaneity and fluency and with less effort, and, for all this, the language that one prefers to use both in situations of maximum intellectual complexity and in those others of maximum privacy;
  5. the language that one feels as one’s own, as part of their individual identity and their own community.

What is the impact of a mother tongue?

The mother tongue also plays a key role in building your own identity. Even being bilingual, some ways of describing the world depend largely on the language they learned in the first place, since the first experiments were carried out in that language: for example, eggs have an orange color in Spanish, yellow in French and red in Italian (“rosso dell’uvo”). Cultural differences, beyond color, are also noticeable in historical or religious references, for example, “lónɡ mǎ jīnɡ shen” (having the energy of the dragon and the horse, which means keeping a mind alive despite age) It has a meaning for a Chinese who knows mythology about the animals of the zodiac, but incomprehensible to the rest.

Can you “lose” the mother tongue?

Sometimes, for cultural or practical reasons, some children cease to learn or use their mother tongue: in fact, this is not because some concepts were learned in a language that was recorded in the student’s memory, since the language it must be used, even minimally, to be preserved. It can also happen that the children of immigrants are pushed by their parents or by the society in which they grow up not to use their mother tongue, only their host language and completely lose the use of this language except for a few words. The problem then becomes that by losing the use of this language, they can lose contact with their culture as a whole and find themselves lost in a culture of origin that they do not truly know and in which they cannot interact.

Can we have two mother tongues?

In principle yes. Although experts are divided on the subject and some believe that one language is still dominant over the others, the assumption of learning two languages ​​at the same time would be possible for the children of bilingual couples. It is interesting to note that in general, during the first years, they do not learn to name things around them in both languages, but to know the words and phrases in one or another language. Sometimes, it can be paradoxical that they have difficulties in the language subject. However, this gap begins to close around the age of 4-5 years and, subsequently, these children have a great advantage over their peers.

Can you really be bilingual without having been taught in two languages?

Again, the debate is shared, especially with regard to the definition of “bilingual.” As the mother tongue truly influences the way we view the world, some believe that an individual can never have this difference in perception. The person will have learned all the grammar and vocabulary they want, but cannot use it in the same way or in the same circumstances as someone who has “lived” the language from an early learning.

 

Some factors, however, could compensate for the lack, for example, reside in a language-speaking country, have a partner who speaks a different language or work in an environment that uses another language. All these situations allow to use language in a context and with a purpose beyond the purely utilitarian and allow to understand the cultural context of that language.

Not being a bilingual student is not a fatality. Not only is it possible to master a foreign language, but people who learn an adult language are often better in grammar and spelling (since they learn systematically), compared to those who have learned the language by mimicry or by imitation. Conducting an immersion program in a foreign country where it is possible to use the language in everyday situations and discover the culture at the same time as the language is an enriching experience from an academic, professional and personal point of view. The OISE centers offer tailored programs abroad where total immersion in culture and results are guaranteed.

International Mother Language Day

In November of 1999 the General Conference of UNESCO declared February 21 as the day of the mother tongue. As of February 2000, this date is celebrated in most countries, in order to promote all the languages ​​of the world.

That day offers an effective mobilization opportunity in favor of linguistic diversity and multilingualism.

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