Have you ever wondered about the role of your mother tongue in forming your identity? If you changed your first language, the culture that comes with it would colour the way you see the world in a different way. It would also mean you might have an easier time learning other foreign languages. Imagine—if you were a native Chinese speaker, the tones wouldn’t be a problem, if your mother tongue was Arabic, how easy would it be to learn other Semitic languages?
People can “lose” their mother tongues for different reasons. Not keeping in touch with it after moving to a new country is probably the main one, but we can also mention people with selective aphasia or those whose first languages are endangered. I bet you wouldn’t willingly let go of your mother tongue, but what if you could change it? If a language fairy visited you on the 21st of February (International Mother Language Day) offering you a deal to swap your mother tongue for any language of your choice, would you say yes?
As a part of the Women’s History Month we decided to ask this question to a few prominent female writers, authors and polyglots. Let’s see what their perspective is.
Anne Merritt, MA in Applied Linguistics, is a Canadian ESL instructor and education writer who has taught in five countries on 3 continents.
I feel very lucky to have English as my mother tongue, as it’s the lingua franca of science, tourism, academia, the Internet, and so on. I’ve heard that Farsi is very poetic in its syntax, and that writing system is confoundingly fascinating to me. Could I be someone who learned Farsi and English growing up? In short, I want to be Christiane Amanpour.
Kerstin Cable is a language learner, teacher, and podcaster blogging at Fluent Language.
I would never choose a different mother tongue. German has served me very well as a native language, and in fact I feel quite lucky that I’ve grown up using the cases without having to come at that concept at a later age.
Judith Meyer speaks 9-13 languages and blogs at Learnlangs.
If I could have a different language as a mother tongue, I would probably choose Arabic or Russian, because these are the most useful among the languages that have resisted me the most—I have tried several times and always stopped sooner or later. Alternatively, any language that I would otherwise have to spend many years learning. I’m fluent in Chinese now, but what a journey…
Jana Fadness is an American language learning enthusiast and nomad who has spent much of her time in Japan.
My mother tongue is English, and I’m actually very grateful for that because there are a lot of advantages to being a native English speaker. It’s allowed me to have the lifestyle I’ve had living in different countries teaching English, for one thing! So I probably wouldn’t change my native language even if I could.
It’s a very difficult question for me because, being a Russian teacher, I love my mother tongue and the idea of sharing it with other people. I suppose I would choose German because it is so rich and precise. Also, what makes it special for me is, that I find it a hard one to learn.
Agnieszka Murdoch is a language coach and blogger at 5-Minute Language. Her mission is to help language learners find effective strategies, move on towards fluency and stay motivated. She tweets at @agamurdoch.
I think I’m quite lucky having Polish as my mother tongue. Some people say it’s a difficult language to learn and I would probably want to learn it if it was a foreign language to me, so I’ve got that one sorted!
Kirsten Winkler —an edtech writer, the founder of EDUKWEST and an education technology-focused online publication Fair Languages.
Italian would be nice (not necessarily “useful” but beautiful!).
Lindsay Dow learns, teaches, blogs, vlogs, eats, sleeps and breathe everything language related. You can follow her journey at Lindsay Does Languages.
What an interesting question! You know, it’s funny. I’ve always said I’m glad that English is my mother tongue because I couldn’t imagine learning it with all it’s crazy spelling and differences across the world. That said, there is a lot of English stuff out there in pop culture that would help to keep me inspired!
So if I had to pick…hmm..right now I’d say I’d love to be fluent in Arabic because it’s a huge language that I’ve yet to really study and one I’ve always been a little afraid of if I’m honest because of the diversity of dialects and how different to anything I currently know it seems. But I would love to be able to speak and understand Arabic, so a free pass would be awesome!
Anna Breslavskaya is a language coach and a blogger who writes about learning and teaching English on anna-edu.
If I could have any other but Russian language as my mother tongue, I’d choose Chinese. It would guarantee my ability to read fluently in this language, which is really hard to achieve learning it as a foreign language. Since my main interest in new languages lies in exploring the history and literature of its country, excellent reading skills are essential.
Susanna Zaraysky speaks eight languages and specializes in helping people learn foreign languages using music, TV, radio, movies and other media via her book, Language is Music.
Brazilian Portuguese. Now that is one mellifluous tongue, it tastes, feels and sounds like honey!
Shannon Kennedy is a professional musician and passionate language learner who writes about her adventures, love of food, and shares language learning tips over at Eurolinguiste.
I would choose any language other than English. I think, if I had the choice, I would prefer to learn English as a second language rather than have it as a first.
If you had to change your mother tongue, which one would you choose and why? Let us know on Twitter!