The Malay language is a dying language

language: Mother tongue day warns of the dying out of languages

International Mother Language Day is today: none of those days that are curious and just fun like Absinthe Day (note in the calendar: March 5th - and don't forget to buy a bottle from the green fairy, Vincent van Gogh tasted half an ear and brought the literary history of Rimbaud's "Illuminations") or the day of orgasm (May 9th - please plan in advance). No, Mother Language Day is officially ennobled by the fact that Unesco launched it in the year 2000, to point to the global death of languages. Of course, the UN's culture-science-education organization is scratching its left hand behind its right ear. Because a mother tongue is not automatically an endangered language. The other way around it fits again, because every language threatened with extinction is someone's mother tongue.

What does "mother tongue" mean?

Speaking of mother tongue - what is meant by mother tongue? The definition according to the Internet lexicon wikipedia: "Mother tongue is the language learned in early childhood without formal lessons. This so-called first or primary language is so firmly anchored both in terms of its grammatical structure and the individual sound forms that Speak it almost unconsciously (perfectly) as you grow up. You simply speak this language and all other languages ​​learned later have little chance of reaching this level or this form of language competence. "

I bet that a literary connoisseur will throw in that Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov and actually Yvan Goll as well. . .?

But that's only partly true: The Russian Nabokov was looked after by an English governess in the house of his emphatically cosmopolitan family. He grew up bilingual. The fact that he is considered a high-grade stylist in both languages ​​in both his Russian and later English novels is noteworthy.

A similar case of bilingualism is the Alsatian Goll: For him, German and French were parallel mother tongues from early childhood. So it was not difficult for him to write poetry of perfect beauty in both languages ​​and sometimes, for example in the case of the "Malay love songs", to translate from one language to the other himself.

That leaves the special case of Joseph Conrad. Born as Józef Teodor Nałęc Konrad Korzeniowski in what was then the Russian Empire (now Ukraine) to Polish parents, he did not speak a word of English until he was 21 years old. He learned the language during his time as a seaman on British ships and perfected it to the extent that he became one of the most important stylists of the with stories such as "The Nigger of Narcissus", "Almayer's Madness" and "Heart of Darkness" English language applies. His vocabulary and accuracy of word choice even match that of Rudyard Kipling. So how was it with the languages ​​you learned later, which hardly have the chance to draw level with your mother tongue in terms of language competence?

But as I said: Conrad, Nabokov and Goll remain special cases. And this is where the Burgtheatre actor Branko Samarovski belongs, whose flawless German easily coexists with his Serbian mother tongue.

The term mother tongue is of course meant neutrally and simply follows the idea that the toddler has to do most with the mother and through her learns his first language, which is inevitably that of the mother.

Language arouses emotions

But how much emotion is packed into it, namely in language in general, especially in Germany and Austria. In the discussion, one often cannot help feeling that refugees and migrants are not only being (quite rightly) forced to learn German, but that one would prefer to forbid them to speak their mother tongue altogether. It was completely different in the German Empire. His Majesty Emperor Franz Joseph was proud that eleven languages ​​were recognized in the military alone. That means that orders had to be given in these languages, a Hungarian regiment in Hungarian, a Czech regiment in Czech and so on. Today Austria has three official languages ​​in addition to German, namely Hungarian, Slovenian and Burgenland-Croatian.

In general: As if "mother tongue German" were the same as "mother tongue German". Conversation, for example, between a Vorarlberger speaking Vorarlberger and an East Frisian speaking Low German can produce exciting results. Nobody is born with Goethe's German. The so-called High German is just the advanced language of the Luther Bible. However, German (like all languages) is far more diverse than the high-level variants suggest. For whatever reason, Russian has hardly developed any dialect.

But let us stick to the actual objective that Unesco pursued with the "Mother tongue day", namely to draw attention to the dwindling and disappearing of languages. Experts estimate that there are around 6500 languages ​​worldwide: 6500 ways of getting close to another person. 6500 ways to understand a person.

But of these 6,500 languages, it is estimated that one dies every two to three weeks from the death of its last native speaker. Linguists assume that around half of these 6,500 languages ​​are more or less acutely threatened.

Get close to people

One of the reasons is globalization, which does not mean well with languages ​​of small parts of the population. Of course, anyone who thinks that English is suppressing everything is wrong. In fact, English is the world's number one language, but when it comes to native speakers, English is only in third place behind Chinese (first place) and Spanish (second place), followed by Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese and Punjabi. Only then does German follow in many statistics. It is hairy how the statistics count, i.e. whether they only count native speakers or people who communicate in the languages. Which is a fundamental difference and would promote English to number one.

In no case should the day of the mother tongue be turned into the day of one's own mother tongue, but always be understood as a day of linguistic diversity - a linguistic diversity that also means a variety of possibilities of expression. You are never too old to learn a language - and if it is a foreign language for you, it is the mother tongue of another person, which you can get close to through it.