Mother Tongue

Mt
I’ve been thinking about the power of the mother tongue for
the past few days, ever since I
looked up an English translation of  what I’ve been reading lately to
blog about it. I knew there was theology
in there that I disagreed with but when I read it in French, I would just kind
of skim over it and focus on the truth and beauty that is also
there. But, when I was reading the
English, the stuff that I don’t believe really struck me. “What! I never noticed that there was so much of this in here!”

Living in an intentional Christian community in France a few years ago, I sometimes gave tours of a
historical church. I wasn’t the
only one who did it, but I thought that I was certainly the most
spiritual. The others struggled to be
gracious to impatient and sometimes rude visitors.  Not me. Their complaints slid right off my back. I’d smile, chat with them, and get comments about my charming
(!) accent. Until the day I had a group of
English speakers come through. Complaining in my mother tongue really got to me in a way that complaining in French never did. 

It was kind of the same thing when I started reading the Bible.  I’d hear it read on Tuesday nights, and it would be so powerful!  Reading on my own at home I understood it, but it just didn’t hit me like it did at Bible study.  I finally realized that the version I was reading was really different from the way I talk and think, and that’s why it wasn’t sinking in.  It wasn’t in my mother tongue, my heart language.

Being out of my mother tongue is often a good thing.  Someone here (talking about herself, but it could have been me) said, "I’m a much nicer person in French than I am in English.  In French, I’m, like, ‘How’s your family, how are your children?  Is everyone healthy?’  But the minute I get with another English speaker I’m all, ‘Can you believe what she did?’"  I told a friend once that I "pèche" less in French than I do in English.  I was trying to say that I sin less, referring to about gossip, but I might have said that I fished less…

 

Published by Nora McNamara

Lover of languages and linguistics. Besotted Auntie. Jesus follower. Sacred Harp singer.

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