By Felicia Jennings-Winterle
Editor of Brasileirinhos Platform
A tongue… what is it? It is this muscle that you have there in your mouth, full of functions that allow you to taste the world. The word also denotes a system of symbols, gestures, sounds and conventions through which we know and conquer the world. As a system a tongue is as personal as that inside your mouth, which, thankfully, is only one. But you may have/speak/know/celebrate many tongues.
Each tongue has a status in the history of your life and for each one of them you hold a special flavor.
There is the mother tongue, the one or ones you learn as a small child, from your first meeting with the persons who care for you. There is the foreign tongue, the one or ones that are from other places that you want to know, are charming or fashionable or, that, for some reason, someone thinks is important for to you learn. There is also the heritage tongue, the one or ones that are given to you by those who were born in the lands of people who speak a different tongue than the one from where you live.
Throughout life, your reality, your tastes, your values change. It’s all very philosophical, very poetic, but one thing is clear– a tongue and its status change with you.
What used to be your maternal, central, primary tongue can suddenly become secondary, minority, from within the house, of just a few people. What was a foreign tongue may become so yours, that you may even dream in this old strangeness. What you had one day as special, different, unusual, may suddenly become the majority tongue, everyone’s tongue. And sometimes, indeed often, what used to be your dominant tongue, the one you knew best, the one you used to communicate with most people, ends up sharing the central space it had with another tongue.
It is important to know each of these models in order to know yourself better and to celebrate what is yours, what is ours and what is others’.
February 21st is mother tongue’s day, on May 5th we commemorate the language and culture of Portuguese-speaking countries, on May 16th we celebrate Portuguese as a Heritage Language and on June 10th we celebrate the Portuguese language, as this is the date of Luiz Vaz de Camões’ death. Which dates are important to your language?
And why should we celebrate different languages? Because in times of globalization, standardization is a sad but certain consequence. We need to celebrate diversity and become (really) multicultural. The adaptation which we go through while living abroad is certain, it shows how versatile we are and how all cultures have immeasurable value. And it is the result of these interactions across cultures, which are never final, that will make up your most personal and precious possession – your identity.
Happy languages’ day!
Felicia researchers Portuguese as a Heritage Language and is the Founder and Educational Director of Brasil em Mente, the organization that maintains this platform.
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