Today is the day we celebrate ‘Mother’s day’ or ‘Mothering Sunday’ here in the UK.
Mum is one of those words we start to use from a young age; perhaps you used ‘mumma’, ‘mother’, ‘mam’ or ‘mummy’ instead; there are many ways to say it! Some languages offer a similar word to English, like ‘la madre’ in Spanish and in Italian. Typically the word for mother does start with an ‘m’ or a ‘b’ as these are soft and easy sounds when you’re a child, creating the ‘m’ noise is one of the easiest ones to make. In Afrikaans the word for mother is just ‘ma’ and in Swahili it’s ‘mama’.
However, that’s not always the case: in Fijian the word for mother is ‘tina’, in Kurdish (Sorani) it is ‘daik’ and in Swiss it is ‘d’Mueter’. In other languages the m or b is replaced with a ‘h’ sound – in Japanese mother is ‘haha’ and in Somalia it is ‘hooyo’. Would you expect ‘Whaea’ to translate into the English word ‘Mother’? This is perhaps one of the more unusual ways of saying mother in another language (Maori). Interestingly in Georgian, it is completely different to English, with ‘mama’ meaning father and ‘deda’ for mother.
When it comes to the Romance and Germanic languages, there are a lot of similarities between both ‘mother’ and ‘father’ translations. Father tends to start with a ‘p’ or a ‘b’ sound, which are also easy noises for children to make.
Here are some other words for ‘mother’ in different languages:
Slovak – matka
Scots Gaelic – a’ mhàthair
Hungarian – anya
Albanian – nënë
Tagalog – nanay
How do you say ‘mother’ in the language you’re learning?
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums, tinas, madres and nanays – we hope you have a lovely day!
The uTalk Challenge is almost here!
From January 1st, start a new language for free, and learn as much as you can with our uTalk app by January 31st.
The uTalk challenge is open to everyone and totally free, so if you’d like to join in, you can find more details and sign up to the challenge here: eurotalk.com/utalkchallenge
With 130 languages to choose from (we’ve just added Greenlandic and Indian English to the app, so there’s now even more choice!), there’s something for everyone – and we’re certainly covering a variety of languages here in the EuroTalk office, where competition is bound to be fierce…
Safia – Mandarin Chinese
My mum and little sister despair at my lack of ability to speak any Mandarin so it’s probably about time to rectify the situation. And then they can’t gang up on me anymore when we play Mahjong!
Alex – Turkish
My best friend and her twin sister at uni are Turkish Cypriot, and they always speak Turkish between the two of them when they’re with us, so I want to be able to understand who or what they’re talking about.
Nat – Welsh
I always intended to move to Wales one day so thought I should learn a bit of the language – plus I’m interested to see how much my (limited) Cornish will help with Welsh!
Ioana – Argentinian Spanish
I want to be able to chat with the lovely non-English speaking relatives of my boyfriend, and also to unexpectedly add Spanish words to our daily conversations.
Adi – Arabic
I lived in Dubai for six years, and I hardly know any Arabic, so it’s high time.
Liz – Welsh
No particular reason, if I’m honest; I just fancy a challenge! I think trying to say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch whet my appetite…
Steve – Scots Gaelic
Scotland is one of my favourite places in the UK and I’d like to learn a Celtic language which is still spoken there.
Simon – Polish
It’s the second most common language spoken in the UK. It’s very different from anything I’ve learnt before, and would be interested to try and pick up a few words and sentences and then try and see if I can hear them in real life!
Brett – Arabic
I have been to the UAE on a couple of occasions this year. I am going again next year to meet some schools who need a solution to help get their English-speaking students to speak Arabic. If I’m trying to help them, then I should really learn it too.
Pablo – Romanian
My girlfriend is from Romania. I’ll try to be able to say something else other than her name and ‘da’.
Which language will you learn?
PS No EuroTalkers were harmed in the making of this blog post.
It’s a commonly stated ‘fact’ that Eskimos have lots of different words for snow. Some accounts say nine; others 48; others still say 100! Language isn’t usually that easy to pin down though – ‘Eskimo’ actually covers lots of different groups of people and if we’re getting philosophical, what do we mean by ‘word’? It’s probably fair to say though, that people do have lots of words for the things that affect them the most…
218 for Rain
Weather inspires lots of new words. Some people have counted 218 words for rain, fog and mist in the Scots language! But the Hawaiians are also rain-obsessed – there are 139 words for rain, including some really specific ones like ‘nahua’ for the ‘fine rain that accompanies the north-east trade winds along the northern part of Maui’.
4 for Love
Greek offers four different words for love that range from ‘philia’ (φιλία), which means ‘friendship’ in modern Greek, to ‘agapē’ (αγάπη), which means ‘love’ in the sense of ‘I love you’. Some might say that’s a very sensible distinction to make!
46 for Camels
Animals are important too. There are about 46 Somali words for camels in various stages of the reproductive cycle, but then this pales into insignificance when you consider that there are around 500 breeds of dog referred to in the English language!
Lots for Drunkenness
And of course, the British have hundreds of slang terms for being drunk, including ‘sozzled’, ‘pickled’ and ‘wellied’, as well as lots of other bizarre words that were almost certainly dreamed up under the influence of alcohol themselves…
And that’s not all…
If we think about it, there are actually lots of examples in English for this – for many words it would be quite easy to come up with at least a handful of others that mean something very similar.
Take ‘angry’, for example; you could be miffed, frustrated, annoyed, furious or even incandescent. All these words express a slightly different degree of the same emotion, and this is just a selection. That’s the great thing about language – there’s a word for (almost) everything!
Can you think of any more examples from your language?