Skip to main content
Media for Freedom
Sustainable Development through Mother Tongue
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir
Sustainable Development through Mother Tongue and Multilingualism
By Yossef Ben-Meir and Ellen Hernandez
When community meetings are held to determine priority development projects in villages, in neighborhoods, in schools, in agricultural fields—wherever they may take place—we want to speak the language that is spoken there, spoken every day. The idea of a person or a community of people exploring what they most want in their lives should be as real and as connected to their notion of “self” as possible.
One’s mother language is a language of the heart, and we can express ourselves in that language unlike any other because it is how our deepest contemplation takes place. It is the language of prayer, of mercy and of forgiveness. It is the language of friendship and love. It arises from the concept of the mother, the one who nurtures us as infants, being the one from whom we first hear language and try to articulate what we hear.
Expression in our mother tongue is associated with sustainable development. When we work with community groups through participatory dialogue, we focus on identifying what is most sought and what people want to dedicate themselves to. That kind of introspection should be completely honest, reflecting on our deepest selves in the language in which we are most comfortable. So, language is an essential part of achieving sustainability.
Participatory community planning is a hallmark of civil society organizations dedicated to sustainable development, but it can be challenging when there is the presence of multiple languages of expression. Civil society workers are often in situations where there is no choice but to use their many and varied languages—in Morocco, for example, this will include Arabic as well as Tamazight—to communicate effectively and try to make expression the most personal and closest to what is really felt. This requires movement in and out of languages, creating a climate of multilingualism.
The ideas of multilingualism are actually ancient. In the Hebrew tradition, for example, the highest court had 70 judges to reflect what were considered the world’s 70 root languages. The idea was that if you have each of these essential languages represented, those matters that came before the court would be approached from all different perspectives and points of view in order to come to a more truthful understanding of the subjects being examined.
We should learn as many languages as we can, not just as a skill but as a perception-creating opportunity. Through experiences such as travel, international work, immigration, and personal experience, we develop a multilingual, and thus a pluralistic, perspective. While this contradicts the philosophy that an engaged, connected citizenry benefits from a shared root language, the ability to “code switch” demonstrates a capacity to negotiate the personal as well as the public spheres of higher education, the workplace, commerce, and society. It also allows us to share our cultural and linguistic knowledge with our peers.
As language is alive and ever-evolving, and as
thousands of languages are now endangered
, there is also something in the nature of language that must be preserved. We understand that human beings have been on this planet for many tens of thousands of years. Imagine, then, the number of languages that have appeared and disappeared during that time? Today’s languages can be traced to some of them, but some have passed into oblivion. Even the thousands that exist today cannot be compared to the totality of all languages that ever were. Like plant and animal species, biodiversity of languages is becoming rarer and will continue in that trend as speakers of endangered languages pass on or assimilate into larger groups.
We are obliged, then, to make the effort to preserve languages through multilingualism. We need to document and archive them, as through the
Endangered Languages Project
, but we also must learn and utilize them in real situations through practice and experience. While there is a value to studying in a classroom, most of us learn best by immersing ourselves in the acquisition of new languages. People learn best how to nurture trees or how to deliver
as clinicians and community servants in real situations, and we know that we integrate those skills and abilities and perceptions and absorb them better by actually applying them in the everyday world.
Heartfelt language expression allows for adapted and tailored design of initiatives to meet our human needs, creating the basis for their sustainability. Multilingualism gives us the range of views we need for more complete understanding, followed by decisions that are considerate of the range of factors that are behind (and surround) our lives’ conditions. Diving as well as we can into our home languages and those spoken around us preserves them on earth and avails us of the richness of symbols and knowledge that they carry.
Human languages family tree, 2014.
Dr. Yossef Ben-Meir is President of the High Atlas Foundation in Morocco. Professor Ellen Hernandez teaches in English at Camden County College in the United States.
Mon, 08/09/2021 - 00:25
When you allow the love to reign on you
Advocating for the health of women
When political leaders are busy committing economic crimes?
Education and recidivism go against each other
Returning to Work During COVID-19
COVID-19 Presents a Dilemma for Political Leaders
Testing for Covid-19
Women’s Political Freedom
Life is not only meant to remain alive
I Love Cape May
Pandemic is a grim reminder
My life in New York City During Covid-19 Pandemic, a poem
Nepal government : blatantly violates freedom of speech.
No More Attacks on Afghanistan
What the War of Terror Has Cost Us So Far
Is Financial Freedom Possible?
Why is public transport not good enough to make
The Significance of the New Signage
If Only Afghans Were Jews
Where did we go so wrong in Afghanistan ?
Sustainable Development through Mother Tongue
Moving HIV prevention and treatment tools
Seventy-three years of deadly illusions must come to an end
MFF Old Website Contents
Love, Forgiveness, Kindness, Democracy, Human Rights, Freedom, Peace and Literature
To promote freedom, democracy, anti-terrorism, Literature, women rights, public health, peace and empowerment (http://mediaforfreedom.com) has a strong role to play. Its activities support Peace, Public health, Democracy, Freedom, Human rights, Women/Children, development in societies undergoing crisis and changes. In fact, mediaforfreedom has set objectives like research on contemporary issues, conduct regular media watch, networking with relevant organizations and training for journalist and so on. The contributors are fully responsible for their articles, news and do not represent the views of mediaforfreedom.com. Contributors and editor will not be paid. Articles, News and Press releases should be directed to the editor to Kamala B. Sarup at email@example.com
Today's popular content
An HIV vaccine will never work in isolation
New global tourism initiative to ‘steer industry onto a truly sustainable path’ – UN
The 2nd Asia Pacific Feminist Forum
We have no plan B, we have to get rid of this virus'- new head of UN Ebola mission
Ban reaffirms support for peace on Korean Peninsula
2015 Can and must be time for global action
Global Compact to help end poverty
Women’s Political Participation
UN to host new round of talks among Libyan parties with view to ending crisis
Ebola vaccines show ‘acceptable safety
Development and education reform
Haiti's earthquake victims, looks ahead to brighter future
Women managers, urges greater efforts for workforce equality
Unsafe Abortions and Empowerment
Find us on Facebook
Find us on Twitter
Tweets by @mffmedia