It is estimated that there are nearly 7,000 languages in the world. This includes not only our most widely-spoken languages like English, Mandarin and Spanish, but the rarer languages spoken only by a few native tribes. Since language is first learned from family, it is an integral part of the culture in which it is spoken. For any expatriate, an easy cure for homesickness is to hear your native tongue. It will always bring back memories of home and family.
As the world moves toward increased globalization, there are many smaller ethnic groups that are suffering from a bit of a cultural endangerment: they slowly learn and adopt the language and culture of the larger ethnicity surrounding them, and younger members move away to seek a life filled with the opportunities that are only available “out in the world.” This often leads to the elder members of a group being the only ones to speak a given language and when they pass away, the language dies, too.
I’m full-blooded Puerto Rican, so Spanish was spoken in my house along with English. Despite this cultural base, I grew up in a northern New Jersey suburb where there were few other Hispanics. Thus, my only exposure to the language was at home. Even though I knew some basics, when my parents or grandmother asked me a question in Spanish I nearly always answered in English. I did take Spanish from sixth grade through high school, but my conversational skills were still weak at best and I rarely spoke Spanish at home.
As an adult, I worked in a lot of restaurants with kitchens run by Mexicans, Ecuadorians, and Salvadorans, among other nationalities. Many of them spoke less English than I spoke Spanish, and it was simply easier and faster to communicate customers’ special requests to them in the language they were more comfortable in. In more recent years as a graphic designer, I’ve used my Spanish skills to facilitate translation projects for an international cosmetics corporation’s seasonal trend guide for the employees in their Latin American markets. Both of these situations have greatly increased my Spanish skills on top of what I learned at home and at school, and I’m thankful for that. I still don’t speak Spanish fluently, and have a lot of trouble comprehending precisely what the anchor is saying when I watch the news on Univision (because they speak so darn fast!), but I’m very glad to have the language as part of my identity, and that tie to my native culture.
International Mother Language Day came about as a way to honor multiculturalism by celebrating the language you first learned, whatever it may be. It also calls attention to the lesser-spoken languages that are slowly fading away, in hopes that someone will help to keep them, and their relevant cultures, alive just a little longer.
My Etsy treasury honors several languages of the world, and serves as a peek in to the culture it represents. You can see all of my other Every Day is a Holiday treasuries here!
Click on the image to see the treasury on Etsy, complete with links to the featured shops and items!
“Every Day is a Holiday” is my Etsy Treasury project for 2014. I’m hoping to find unique and beautiful items that exemplify the holiday of the day—the sillier and weirder, the better! What’s better than finding something worth celebrating each and every day?