On February 21, International Mother Language Day will be celebrating that fact. The term “mother language” is a calque, literally a word-for-word translation of common terms such as the French langue maternelle or the Spanish lengua maternal. It also evokes three English near-synonyms: mother tongue, native language, and first language.
Often the first speech a baby ever hears, a mother tongue is the language in which an infant was mothered (or “parented,” to use a more inclusive term) … comforted, sung to, and loved. The mother tongue/native language/first language is not consciously learned. It tends to bring with it an increased level of comfort and recognition, and even affects how its speakers learn other languages.
Recent decades have seen a sharp increase in global population movement, motivated by factors that include economic opportunity, education, adventure, and escape from oppressive conditions or natural disasters. As a result, huge numbers of people find […]