Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Why's it called 'mother tongue'?: 6 Minute English

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Sam: Hello. This is 6 Minute English, I'm Sam.

Georgina: And I'm Georgina.

Sam: Georgina, what languages do you speak?

Georgina: Well, my mother tongue is

English and I also speak Spanish and

French badly!

Sam: OK. Its interesting that we say

mother tongue’, isnt it? Like many

languages, English has a number of

gender specific terms

that dont refer to gender-specific ideas

and concepts. And this complicated

relationship between language and

gender is what we will be talking about

today. But first, this weeks quiz question,

which is also on the topic of

languages. Which of these languages is

the newest? Is it:

A: Esperanto, B: Afrikaans, or C: Light Warlpiri

What do you think, Georgina?

Georgina: Well, Ive only heard of two of

these, Esperanto and Afrikaansso I

think Im going to choose the other one,

Light Warlpiripurely as Ive never heard

of it, so I think that must be the one.

Sam: OK, well well find out if your

intuition is correct later in the programme.

Professor Lera Boroditsky is a cognitive

scientist who was a guest on the BBC

World Service programme,

The Conversation. She was asked about

why we use the termmother tonguein English.

Professor Lera Boroditsky: Different

languages actually do it

differently but definitely theres a strong

association between mothers as primary

caregivers and people who teach us

things and so theres that point of origin

metaphor that applies in a lot of languages.

Sam: So, how does she explain the use of

mother tongue, Georgina?

Georgina: Well, she says its a form of

metaphor.

A metaphor is a way of describing

something by comparing it to something

else. In a metaphor, though, you dont say

that something is like something else, you

say that itissomething else.

For example, having good friends

is the key to a happy life.

Sam: It is indeed. In this metaphor,

language is seen as coming from your

primary caregiver, the person who looked

after you most when you were young, and

traditionally this was mothers.

Georgina: So, this is perhaps the point of

origin, the starting place, of the

metaphorical phrase, mother tongue.

Lets listen again.

Lera Boroditsky: Different languages

actually do it differently,

but definitely theres a strong association

between mothers as primary caregivers

and people who teach us things and so

theres that point of origin metaphor that

applies in a lot of languages.

Sam: Language is very powerful in society

and culture and when it comes to

gendered language, it can cause some

issues. Heres Lera Boroditsky again:

Professor Lera Boroditsky:

in English of course we have some words

that are gendered likeactorandactress

orwaiterandwaitressand very

commonly when there are those two

gender forms, people perceive the

masculine form as being a more

prestigious job or a more skilled

job than the feminine form, so an actor is

a fancier job than an actress and a waiter

is a fancier job than a waitress, and so

they could then come with pay disparities

and so on.

Sam: So whats the subconscious

difference in attitude towards, for

example, an actor and actress?

Georgina: Well, she says that people perceive

those roles differently. This means that

we are aware of, or believe there is a

difference in the jobs because of the

vocabulary. The male form is perceived to

be more prestigiousmore

important, more respected, even though

its exactly the same job.

Sam: And this attitude can lead to

problems such as disparities in pay.

A disparity is a difference,

an inequality and in the world of work it

can mean men getting paid more than

women for the same job. Heres

Professor Boroditsky again.

Professor Lera Boroditsky:

in English of course we have some words

that are gendered likeactorandactress

orwaiterandwaitressand very

commonly when there are those two

gender forms, people perceive the

masculine form as being

a more prestigious job or the more

skilled job than the feminine form, so an

actor is a fancier job than an actress and

a waiter is a fancier job than a waitress,

and so they could then come with pay

disparities and so on.

Sam: OK, before we take another look at

todays vocabulary lets reveal the answer

to this weeks quiz. Which of these

languages is the newest, is it:

A: Esperanto, B: Afrikaans, or C: Light Warlpiri

Georgina, what did you say?

Georgina: I thought it had to be Light Walpiri,

but just because I had never heard of it

before.

Sam: Well congratulations. Your instincts

were good, that is correct. Lets move on

to vocabulary and look at todays words

and phrase again.

Georgina: A primary caregiver is a person

who has most responsibility for looking

after someone.

Sam: A point of origin is the place or time

when something begins.

Georgina: A metaphor is a way of

describing something.

We can say that something is something

else that has similar qualities.

Sam: Youre a star!

Georgina: Aw, thank you.

Sam: No I meant, youre a star, is an

example of a metaphor.

Georgina: Oh, yes, of course, I knew that.

Sam: Mmmm, if you say so. To perceive is

to think of something in a particular way.

We might perceive the value of different

jobs based on the vocabulary used to

describe them.

Georgina: Something prestigious is

important and respected.

Sam: And finally, a disparity is a

difference, an inequality and is often used

when talking about how men and women

arent always paid the same for the same

job. And that is all from us. We look

forward to your company again

soon. In the meantime you can always

find us online, on social media and on the

BBC Learning English app.

Bye for now.

Georgina: Bye!

The Description of Why's it called 'mother tongue'?: 6 Minute English