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The Role of Languages in Cultural Heritage

Even if the world celebrates International Mother Language Day held on February 21each year for cultural diversity and language awareness, there is no denying the fact that minority languages are dying more rapidly. Many factors contribute to this, including globalization, modernization and the blending of international culture.

UNESCO said that, on average, one language disappears every two weeks. A disappearance of a language is the disappearance of an entire intellectual and cultural heritage. According to the 2020 edition of Ethnologue, 2,926 languages are currently endangered, and UNESCO estimates that about 90% of languages worldwide may disappear by 2050.

Besides being a communication device, languages are of cultural significance, and their disappearance means losing unique traditions and knowledge, heritage, and ancestral memories.

One of the most effective ways to preserve a language is to continue using it, whether in written or spoken form. It is a way to raise awareness about the language in different areas. A civilization’s foundation is language, which binds people together. It is all right to learn other languages, but it is vital to use your national language whenever possible.

Why is language heritage important to a country?

Language identifies a culture’s ethnic identity; thus, the development, preservation, and research of culture are linked to learning a nation’s language code. Language is the way to represent the formation and expression of a nation’s culture.

Language is a vital factor in a nation’s development. It is the carrier of a country’s intangible heritage, as it shows the nation’s ethno-cultural, mythological, and psychological experiences and ideas.

Aside from the currency, flag, name or geographical boundary, the national language makes a country unique and respectable. Language is the indicator of the country’s national identity and a part of a person’s heritage or a nation.

You can only have a deeper access to a community if you can speak and understand its language. A person has to be fluent in a language to understand the community’s cultural aspects and nuances. When you are fluent in a country’s national language, it makes it easier for the country’s citizens to accept you.

What does mother tongue mean?

When you say “mother tongue,” it pertains to the language that you speak since you were young. It is your native language. Mother tongue is also called a native tongue, home language, dominant language, or the first language.

Educators and contemporary linguists often use the term L1 about a native or first language, meaning the mother tongue. They use L2 for the second language a person speaks or the foreign language that they study.

When you use the term mother tongue, you refer to the language a person learns from birth. It is the language they were initially exposed to and the first language they learn. However, it also means the speaker’s home and dominant language, not only from acquisition but also from its importance and the speaker’s ability to fully learn its communicative and linguistic features. In language translation terms, it means that the translator is highly capable of translating the text into one’s dominant and primary language.

What is the difference between the mother tongue and the first language?

If you go with technicalities, there is no difference between first language and mother tongue, as they both pertain to the native language a person uses. But if you are talking about contexts, you can say that the mother tongue is the language that the person’s ethnic group speaks, which may not be a person’s first language.

Migration plays a big role in the acquisition of a first language. For example, a family from a Spanish speaking country immigrates to the United States. The elders in the family may continue to speak Spanish, which is their mother tongue.

However, their young children, born and raised in the U.S., will be using English as their first language. It is the language they use in school and their language to communicate with classmates and friends. They may or may not speak Spanish at home, according to their preference, particularly if their parents studied English to gain employment.

Many immigrant households in the U.S. typically encourage their children to pick up the dominant language. It is their way of ensuring that their children will not suffer from discrimination, can co-exist and communicate effortlessly in the community and have more opportunities for a better life.

When you refer to a person’s first language, it could be a mother tongue, but it could also be the language of choice when the speaker is bilingual or multilingual. Often, the child learns the language that their parents and other caretakers speak. This is a natural language acquisition because it is the only language that the child hears since birth.

In a bilingual household where the parents teach their children to learn their mother tongue simultaneously, they can choose which will be their first language. It becomes a choice of which language the child is most comfortable with and fluent in speaking, despite speaking two languages.

A conundrum

Using the mother tongue or the first language can pose challenges to people who speak several languages. In Singapore, there are four official languages – English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin Chinese. English is the working language, which a majority of the population speaks. The same is true for Mandarin Chinese. And while English is a dominant language, most companies prefer to conduct business in Mandarin since a large part of the business community in Singapore comprises Chinese speakers.

We only use native speakers to deliver the highest level of accuracy in our translations.

Here at eTranslation Services, we only work with translators who are native speakers. Our native-speaking translators will deliver 100% accurate translations of your content in more than 200 languages. This means they consider the nuances and the specific characteristics of the language when they do their translation work, ensuring that your message resonates effectively with your target audiences. Whenever you need professional and high-quality translations, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Reach us by phone at (800) 882-6058 or send us an email at [email protected] to discuss what you need.


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