Mother tongue – how do you define yours?

Interesting breakdown of different terminologies used to describe your comfort level with multiple languages.

multilingual families raising bilingual children

Mother language Happy International Mother Language Day! There could not be a more appropriate day than today to reflect on the term ‘mother tongue’ – but what does it really mean, especially if you speak more than one language? How should the term be defined in general and what specific meaning does it have to me? Warning: there will more questions than answers in today’s post.

There is a wonderful proverb in Swedish “Kärt barn har många namn”, the literal translation being “A beloved child has many names”, which is very true for what is generally called the ‘mother tongue’. One of the definitions is that it is ‘the language which a person has grown up speaking from early childhood’. This is generally a viable definition, but what if you for example move to another language environment or get adopted and forget the language you spoke when growing up – are you…

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