Kia Ora, Hola and Hello!

Kia Ora, kei te pehea koe? Ko Pirongia tōku Maunga, ko Waikato te awa, ko Tainui te waka, ko Caitlin tōku ingoa.

Tere, minu nimi on Caitlin ma olen Uus-Meremaa. Kuidas läheb?

Hola ¿cómo estás? Ayer fue el Día Internacional de la Lengua Materna. Lo has celebrado? Cuál es tu lengu materna?

Yesterday was International Mother Language Day a day designed to promote linguistic diversity and multilingualism. I have always wanted to be one of those people who speaks about 6 languages and picks up new ones really quickly. This doesn’t seem likely as I am not super skilled in the linguistics department and struggle to maintain my second language (Spanish) now that I am living in the English Speaking world again.

As my mother tongue is English (quite a widely spoken language) I decided to expand upon my own linguistic diversity and spend the day focusing on my second language (Spanish) and the language I wish I spoke more of (Maori). I got back into DuoLingo which is a really great site and app for learning languages. I have been using it to practice my Spanish but have been kind of lazy lately. I also had a bit of fun attempting to recall the Maori I learnt in primary school. The introduction or mihi at the top of this post being most of what I remember. The rest that I learnt at school was in song (ma is white whero is red kakariki is green… and I saw a Taniwha) so I had a lot of fun revisiting these songs. I also found these matching games to practice basic vocab if you want to give them a go and learn some Maori. It is definitely one of my goals to actually learn Maori in the near future.

While International Mother Language Day has, for me, been a fun opportunity to practice my language skills in 2016 it was also a day to promote the importance of education in one’s mother tongue. Education in the mother tongue is important as it means all people are able to access education without barriers. This is especially important for members of minority groups or indigenous peoples. In New Zealand (although I wish Maori was taught to a much higher level in mainstream classes) most schools have Te Reo Maori streams and there are Maori immersion schools, this is really awesome as it means that Maori is not one of the 7,000 languages that are likely to die out within a few generations.

The idea of languages dying out really saddens me as I think that speakers of each different language have a unique understanding of the world. I found it really interesting while learning Spanish discovering new words that cannot be translated or learning that there is no Spanish equivalent of some English words, it makes you realise how your language can shape your perspective. Language can even shape things as basic as our perception of colour which is so interesting, the number of terms we have for colours in our language can affect how we differentiate between them. A fun example of this; in Japan the “go” traffic light is referred to as blue.

I will leave you with this great song from one of my favourite Kiwi artists Dudley Benson:

Until next time Haere Ra, go forth and speak in tongues!

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