International Mother Language

23 Feb

Friday (21.2.14) saw the 14th year observance of ‘International Mother Language‘. UNESCO announced in 1999 that a day should be observed worldwide with focus on linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The United Nations Assembly also recognised this day and deemed 2008 the ‘International Year of Languages‘.

Awareness stems from the demonstrations of 1952, when students from Dhaka University, Jagannath University and the Dhaka Medical College all demonstrated in the capital Dhaka (in the present day Bangladesh) for the recognition of their mother tongue, Bengali, to be one of the two national languages of then Pakistan. The students were shot and killed by police near the capitals’ High Court.

The A, B, C Of It

‘Mother language’, is taken verbatim from the romance languages and is more commonly known by the terms ‘mother tongue’ or ‘native tongue’. In linguistics however it is known as an ancestral language or ‘protolanguage’ of which there is no documentation but from which modern languages have evolved.
As someone who lives in a country where communicating in a second language is not quite second nature, it’s a welcome occasion – I often find speaking in a second language difficult and I can find myself in some pretty hot water from time to time with misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Perhaps many a battle could be quelled if we took more time and interest in understanding at least the ‘A,B,C’ of one another’s mother tongue.

Here are three personal favourites, sung in Spanish, Arabic and French. 

1.The first from the Nomadic artist Lhasa De Sela with Por Eso Me Quedo (That’s Why I’m Staying). Lhasa died way too early, at the age of 37 of breast cancer in 2010. 

2. Yasmine Hamdan with Khalas (All right-then)
Born in Beirut in 1976, the stunning Hamdan travelled – due to the Civil War, between Beirut, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi and Greece together with her family, she sings in Arabic, is an accomplished artist and actor, she also appears cameo in Jim Jarmusch’ film; Only Lovers Left Alive singing ‘Hal’ with her bandSoapkills‘. Amazing!

3. Les Rita Mitsouko with Y’a De L’Haine (There Is Hate)
Catherine Ringer and Frédéric Chichin formed the band in 1980 and remained a duo until Chichin died due to cancer in 2007, aged 53. The french couple were adept in melting different music styles from Jazz to Hip Hop to form an innovative style of their own.


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