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International Mother Language Day 2022: A Bridge to Cultural Diversity

International Mother Language Day 2022: A Bridge to Cultural Diversity

February 21, 2022 4 min read

International Mother Language Day 2022: A Bridge to Cultural Diversity

There are over 7,000 languages spoken on planet Earth, each one a critical tool developed over time to help humans navigate the world around them, even if that world is an isolated mountaintop shared by just a handful of people. International Mother Language Day is celebrated in many countries worldwide February 21 each year to acknowledge the importance of linguistic and cultural diversity and promote multilingualism. The world is an extremely heterogeneous place. Why wouldn’t there be so many languages used to navigate it? Our varied surroundings have helped shape the many languages spoken by humans, but does the language we learned as children, our mother tongue, influence the way we see the world?

Language is influenced by the environment

What is the role of mother tongue? We know that the features of the land, vegetation, climate and resources of each corner of the planet have helped shape the culture and the language of the people who live there. The Sami people, who inhabit the northernmost parts of Scandinavia and Russia, have at least 180 words to describe snow and ice, elements that greatly influence their ability to survive the harsh conditions they live in. Most of the many languages spoken in the region of the Caucasus Mountains, between the Caspian and the Black Sea, share many of the same ejectives, which are unusual, often difficult to pronounce sounds found in about 20% of the world’s languages. One 2013 study concluded that the different languages adopted similar sounds due to the high altitude common to the area. Without a doubt, environment has helped shape the world’s languages.

Language can influence point of view

But does language influence how its speakers think? A language’s sentence construction and grammar can influence how its native speakers interpret events, according to one study carried out at Stanford University. It found that speakers of Japanese and Spanish find it more difficult to remember accidental events than English speakers. This is possibly because, in Spanish and Japanese, the structure used to describe accidental events leaves out the subject. It turns out it may be easier to remember a broken window if “Mary broke the window”, as the event would be described in English than if “the window was broken”, without naming who was responsible as a Spanish or Japanese speaker would say.

Language conveys culture and values

Part of the challenge in researching the effect language has on human perception is that it is extremely difficult to separate it from culture. Language is used not only to describe objects around us but to convey values and ideas as well.

For the Chinese, family is highly important. That may be why the language includes so many words related to the concept of family. In Korean, the word “nunchi”, literally “eye-measure”, has no precise English translation. The word refers to the Korean idea that one can master the art of rapidly processing social information to gain understanding and insight into what others are thinking and feeling.

Mother language invokes emotion

Language isn’t just a collection of words but a bridge to a person’s culture, values, identity, and beliefs. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his own language, that goes to his heart.” A mother language connects the individual to the strong human emotions experienced during the most formative period of life: childhood. In fact, research suggests that people have different emotional responses when communicating in a language that is not their native tongue.

One University of Chicago study concluded that people were less emotional when making decisions when information was presented in their non-native tongue not because they had to focus their brainpower on understanding a second language, but because they were cut off from the sentiment their mother tongue invoked in them. “Your native language is acquired from your family, from your friends,” explained one of the researchers, Sayuri Hayakawa. “It becomes infused with all these emotions.”

Mother language fosters trust

A conversation in a person’s mother language establishes a strong emotional connection and promotes understanding and trust. Communicating with customers in their mother language is important, which is why at Ria, we have a team of people from more than 80 nations and provide customer care and in-store service in the languages that make our customers feel at home.

Because language is much more than a collection of words to describe the objects and environment around us. It is intimately tied to culture, values, and a storehouse of shared experience and human emotion. The world is a diverse place which is why we celebrate Mother Language Day: language is the bridge that connects humans with the world around them, in all its diversity.

For more info: comms@riamoneytransfer.com

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