International Mother Language Day 2021

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Words by Bianca Oana Asanache


Language goes beyond words. Includes our timbre, body language, the way we perceive and understand others. Even the way we think is mediated by language.

 

Language is not fixed but in constant evolution, it’s highly nuanced and it takes years to learn and master a new one. That’s true for adults whose level of neuroplasticity for phonology and syntax decay with ageing. If you’ve tried to pick up a new language in your adulthood, you may have found it more or less challenging. That’s not surprising, as language and music remain the most cognitively complex uses of sound by humans. 


As PMWs, we all are familiar with the ups and downs of mastering two or more languages, and we know that language represents one of the main invisible barriers to finding employment in Australia. 


At the beginning, you may have found it difficult to understand your Australian peers’ accent. The English you learned in school hasn’t prepared you for their lingo. And to them, our accents sound exotic. But time and patience helped us to adapt and even to incorporate some of the slang and local expressions into our daily communication.

 

Our accents can even change based on the social situation, mood, or when we are exposed to other people’s language for some time. This is called “the chameleon effect” and it’s nothing more than a human instinct to empathise and connect with others and also a form of learning. This happens at an unconscious level, and it has played an important role in human evolution.


If we are naturally inclined to do that, what if we also naturally inclined to be more inclusive, more understanding, to affiliate and create a bond with diverse people? Sure, this would have to happen on a conscious level and be intentional and practised over and over again. As we do when we learn a new language.


Maybe using a global language while neglecting our native or forcing ethnic minorities to use a country’s official language, it’s not the way ahead for inclusion in society and in education. We live on land that has already lost so much of its roots and diversity. The First Australians spoke over 250 languages, including 800 dialects, that were passed orally. The colonisation has inevitability caused loss, displacing First Australians and disrupting the speaking and transmission of their language. 


Loss of language is also a problem of our times, and it’s especially complex for migrants. Over half of the world’s languages are not being passed on to the next generation. Immigrants’ children are a generation of lost language as their parents assimilated in the new hosting country, and the native language didn’t survive in the household. Luckily, today we value more Bilingualism and see it as a blessing. 


In the movement of 1952, Bangalee people sacrificed their lives for their mother language to show how important is to respect and celebrate all mother languages and promote awareness around this topic. 


So be proud of your accent, of your culture, of your roots, of your mother language. 


So long, 
The Pmw Team 😉