Yesterday was International Mother Language Day—a worldwide annual observance held on February 21 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. In the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program this year, CCI students speak over twenty different languages and dialects, including English, and many grew up bilingual or multilingual.
As part of the CCI Program, CCI students have the opportunity to strengthen their English language proficiency so they can enhance their global communication skills. For CCI students, honing the English language is a rewarding challenge, and it also makes them appreciate their mother language even more. To celebrate the CCI Program’s diverse representation of languages for International Mother Language Day, we asked some of this year’s participants to explain what they love most about their language.
“My mother language is Akyem Twi from Ghana. I feel at home anytime I speak my mother language. I love the politeness in my language, and words like me daase meaning ‘thank you’ and akwaaba meaning ‘welcome.’” – Gracey Bediako, Ghana, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
“Bahasa Indonesia is my mother language. I love my mother language because it is easy to learn and I feel alive when I talk using my mother language. I love the word sayang which means ‘darling’ and kupu-kupu which means ‘butterfly.’” – Bunga Yuniasari, Indonesia, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
“My mother language is Gujarati and it is a very beautiful language and has many dialects. Songs in Gujarati are very famous for dancing garba and daandiya which are our traditional dances.” – Karim Virani, India, Bunker Hill Community College
“My mother language is Spanish. What I like about it is how special and challenging it is. I like the sounds of the letters r, ch and rr, and of the ñ, which is a unique letter that only Spanish has. My favorite part are the accents in each word and the rules to add the tilde, which is this line in the top of the vowels that represents the strongest part of the word (á é í ó ú). It is challenging because even Spanish speakers have trouble adding the tilde to the words. And, finally, I like the diversity of accents and words of all Spanish speakers.” – Vanesa De la Cruz, Colombia, Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale
Just like in the United States, there are a variety of different languages and dialects spoken in each country across the world. For example, CCI participants Naik Alam and Komal Alam are both from northern Pakistan, but they speak different languages: Shina and Burushaski. On the other hand, CCI students from Ghana, Eneri Ofosua-adjei and Gracey Bediako, speak different dialects of the same language. Eneri speaks Akuapem Twi while Gracey is familiar with Akyem Twi.
Unlike the United States, some countries have official languages. Cessy Anakay and Bunga Yuniasari both speak Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of Indonesia. Cessy says her language “is very simple and fun to use, my other CCI friends say it’s funny to listen to me speaking my language fast.”
One particularly unique language represented by CCI participants is Afrikaans. Although Afrikaans is largely based on Dutch, it also incorporates words from German, Portuguese and the Khoisan languages, and to Tharina Malan, a South African student studying at Scottsdale Community College, “It is a beautiful, expressive language.”
Whether their mother language is Arabic, French, Urdu, or Turkish, CCI students love to share their language with one another as they enhance their international communication skills.