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About Mother Language

Information about Mother Language

Photo by Kohji Asakawa

Photo by Kohji Asakawa

The term mother language can have different meanings by definition. Sometimes it is used alongside mother tongue, to address the language that a person learned from birth and that is passed on from generation to generation. Mother language is that language you are given by your mother. Sometimes, e.g. in a bilingual home, that can be more than one language.

You also may hear or read the terms first language and native language used in connection, but in our understanding there is a slight difference in the meaning.

First language is the language one choses to speak frequently or first, especially if that person has knowledge of more than one language. Oftentimes the first language is part of personal, social and cultural identity. Native language on the other hand may be understood as the language bound to the geographic region the speaker of that language is residing, and also bound to the ethnic group the speaker is belonging to. Oftentimes the native language is set equal to first language e.g. in the use on CV's (curriculum vitae).

Did you know that our civilization currently has to offer more than 7,000 living languages worldwide, from which the most widely spoken languages are Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic and Portuguese? An interesting fact is about 1.2 billion people in 33 countries use Mandarin Chinese as first language, and in comparison about 335 million people in 99 countries use English.*

* Statistics by Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2014. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version:

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