25 total results
Published: Thursday 31st of October 2013
What is a mother tongue? When we say “mother tongue” or “native language,” we usually refer to the first language that a person has ever learned how to speak, the one learned by this person as a baby. It also the language that you learn to think on and that you grow up with. It is the language that you hear your mother (or mother figure) speak, including to the little you, and so you grow up to know this language. As such, when a child, you learn to realize and understand the world around you and everything that happens through the prism of your mother tongue. There are several reasons why our mother tongue is a crucial aspect influencing our lives.
First of all, our mother tongue provides us with the initial definitions of our emotions, as well as the objects and processes around us. The language that we speak is the essential factor that influences all spheres of our lives, and that influence starts at a very early age. It provides you with an irreplaceable lens that you use to see and learn everything that surrounds you and to learn every skill that you ever master in your life. When a child learns its first language, its mother tongue, it learns much more than merely to communicate in this language. A language – and, most notably, our first language – provides us with notion and definitions which we use as tools that help us organize our thinking, understand the world around us, and express who we are. These notions and definitions are ‘checkpoints’ to which we can return when we encounter recurring objects or events, which gives us a sense of confidence that helps us go on with our education (in the most general sense of the word) ever further and faster.
Later, when you enter school, you will usually have most subjects taught in your mother tongue. This is how schools use children’s mother tongue as a tool to facilitate their learning in other spheres of knowledge. This is possible due to the communication skills that children gain when learning their mother tongue from their parents. This is why education scholars stress that meaningful communication at home provides for the ease with which a child learns in class. The more stories (once again, it the most general sense of the word) parents tell and discuss with their children, the better terminology children develop to help them understand what is discussed in class and get involved, which, consequently, leads to academic success.
Among other subjects that you learn at school, mother tongue is especially crucial for learning foreign languages. The more you master your mother tongue, the more you understand the general linguistic processes. This understanding is vital for facilitating your learning of other languages. As we know, the earlier a child begins to learn a foreign language, the easier the learning goes. This happens because a child can understand and process the general linguistic principles – even if only subconsciously – much faster. However, it is impossible without the firm foundation of the child’s mother tongue skill which is achieved through persistent and diverse communication with the child. The more definitions and linguistic structures the child learns in its mother tongue, the more it can compare them to those in another language and thus transfer and expand its knowledge of the mother tongue into another language. The child intuitively gets the grammar of both the mother tongue and other languages, making it easy for the child to skip through the unclear parts, grasp the general picture, and then return to those unclear parts and fill them with meaning.
Mother tongue is the foundation for your cultural and personal identity. Your personal identity gets shaped by your mother tongue simultaneously as you, as a child, shape the objects and events around you into definitions. This is what Nelson Mandela meant by his famous words: “Talk to a person in their language, and it goes to their heart.” In other words, your mother tongue represents your connection with your family, your community, and, ultimately, your culture. This connection is what people usually mean when they use the term “cultural identity.” One can also define it as the grand picture of your culture and your place in it. Mother tongue provides for the easiest and most natural way to draw and organize this picture. This is not to say that there needs to be only one language – there are many bilingual or multilingual cultures in the world that can boast exquisitely rich identity.
There is also an indirect way in which the variety of mother tongues stimulates the economy by creating more jobs. The increasing number of international students and immigrants brings a lot of other languages and their carriers into the society. As they interact with the society, they find their way into all sectors of life, including education, healthcare, law enforcement, as well as all sorts of businesses. As such, the need arises to facilitate the communication between all these carriers of different mother tongues. In practice, the workers of all these sectors face this necessity. Sometimes, the worker can learn an extra language or two him- or herself. More often, however, an extra worker is needed to facilitate this intercultural communication, and the companies and other organizations have to hire language experts. This is how the diversity of mother tongues creates new job opportunities.
A mother tongue is indeed a crucial element of our lives. It is the essential factor influencing how our personalities are shaped on multiple levels. It begins with giving us the definitions that help us to discover and comprehend the world around us, thus giving us confidence. Then, it serves as the main basis around which we build our cultural identity. And the individuality of various mother tongues and their diversity stimulate the economy by creating new jobs.