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Friday, 14 August 2015
Mother Tongue

Is That a Fish in Your Ear?: Translation and the Meaning of Everything,
David Bellos, Penguin, 2011, page 61

Bellos makes an interesting point about language acquisition:

One problem with using the expression 'mother tongue' to name the language in which an adult operates most comfortably is that it confuses the history of an individual's acquisition of language skills with the mystery of what we mean by the 'possession' of a language. But it also does something more insidious: it acts as a suggestion that our preferred language is not just the language spoken to us by a mother, but is, in some almost mystical sense, the mother of our selfhood - the tongue that made us what we are. It is not a neutral term: it is burdened with a complex set of ideas about the relationship between language and selfhood, and it unloads that burden on us as long as we take the term to be a natural, unproblematic way of naming our linguistic home.

Yiddish speakers in Williamsburg, NY, French speakers in Quebec, Canada and - to some degree - both Hebrew and Arabic speakers in Israel, all have a minority 'first' language that seems at variance with the larger society in which they live and seems at variance with who they are as Americans, Canadians and Israelis, depending on how you define the larger society.

Posted By Jonathan, 8:00am Comment Comments: 1
 
 

Friday, 14 August 2015
Comment -

While the quote may contain truth, left on its own it masks the purposes of God to deal with the ethnos as distinct people groups. We are called to disciple the nations and that doesn't include causing us all to speak Hebrew, still less, Greek. But it does include conforming the distortions in our national identities, including the legacy of our languages, to the image of Messiah Jesus.

Posted By Tim Butlin 09:27am