Losing your mother tongue (Medium)


What does it mean for a child refugee to lose their first language? Sam and Rob hear the story of a woman who could no longer speak her native Czech after her family left their home country. Now she speaks English. We talk about leaving a language behind and teach you new vocabulary along the way.

This week’s question

According to the United Nations, how many people around the world are currently living as displaced refugees?

a)    3 million

b)    53 million

c)    103 million

Listen to the programme to find out the answer. 


mother tongue
native language; the first language you learn from your parents as a child

(someone is) dunked into
suddenly placed into a new, unfamiliar situation for a short time before being removed again

have faith
have confidence or trust in something or someone

sort itself out
(phrasal verb) stop being a problem without anyone having to do anything

complete; fully developed 

situation where only a choice between two options, with no third alternative, is possible

Lắng nghe và điền vào chỗ trống:

Cloze Test



Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. Im Sam.


And Im Rob.

In this programme, well be hearing about an issue experienced by many child refugees who are forced to leave home  � the loss of their first, native language, or mother tongue, as they start a new life, learning speak a new language, in a new country.


Julie Sedivy and her family left their home in was then Czechoslovakia and is now the Czech Republic during the Cold War, when Julie was a small child. several years travelling through Europe, they arrived in Canada as political refugees with no English. Well be hearing about childhood when learning English started to replace her native language, Czech, and, as usual, well be learning some new as well.


But first, I have a question, Rob. Julies family left their home as political refugees, every year millions of people are also displaced because of war, persecution, or the damaging effects of climate change. , according to the United Nations, how many people around the world are currently living as displaced refugees? Is it:

a) 3 million?

b) 53 million? or,

c) 103 ?


Ill guess its 103 million.


Ill reveal the answer later in the programme, Rob. Like child refugees, Julie spoke only her mother tongue, Czech, at home with her brothers, sisters and parents who, in beginning, spoke no English at all. Here she describes to Michael Rosen, presenter of BBC Radio 4 programme, Word Mouth, going to an English-speaking school for the first time.

Michael Rosen

…so��, you went into school not, start off, with really understanding what was going on, is that right?

Julie Sedivy

That's right. I just of interpreted things as best I could, and my memory of that is that that was not particularly difficult traumatic. I think by then I'd had the experience of being dunked into various unfamiliar languages numerous times, and had faith that it would sort itself out, and that everything would be just fine; and it was of


At school, Julie was dunked into unfamiliar situations, a bit like a biscuit being dunked into cup of tea. Often, dunk means to dip something into liquid, but here, the meaning is that Julie was dropped into a new situation for a while, then taken out, as her family travelled through Europe.


the time she arrived in Canada, Julie had been exposed to several other languages including Italian and French. She experienced many difficulties, but never given up hope of finding a new home. Julie had faith  � in other , trust or confidence, that everything would sort itself out, a phrase meaning to stop being a problem automatically, without to do anything.


Over the following years, Julie faced many challenges: going to school and making friends; her parents as they struggled in the English-speaking world; and grieving for her native language which she slowly forgot, with it, the chance to speak Czech with her dad before he passed away. Julie shares her thoughts on and refinding her mother tongue in her book, Memory Speaks.


Through it all, Julie kept alive her that by speaking two, three or even more languages, we dont forget who we are, but instead gain a of tolerance, an idea which she talked about with BBC Radio 4’s, Word of Mouth.

Julie Sedivy

idea that you can be both of Mexican ancestry, for example, and speak Spanish, and be a full-fledged American, in my case come from a country like the Czech Republic, continue to speak my language and to be Canadian and very proudly so and very invested in Canada as a society. There's a number of studies that that the very presence of people with blended ideas in a society seem to lead to greater acceptance between . It creates the sense that this is not an either-or-, that we can coexist, perhaps precisely because we have that these cultures can coexist within a single person.


For Julie, theres no contradiction in being a refugee speaking Czech, or a Spanish-speaking immigrant whos a full-fledged  � or fully developed  � American. These are not situations  � cases where there is only a choice between two options, with no third possibility. Instead, a peaceful can develop, as shown in the life of Julie Sedivy herself.


Right. its time to reveal the to my question: how many people around the world, like Julie, are living as displaced refugees?


Well, said it was 103 million. Was I right?


And that was the correct answer, Rob, a number , according to UN, is only going to grow. Now its time to recap the vocabulary weve learned from this about losing our mother tongue  � the native language you were brought up speaking by your parents.


something is dunked, its dipped into a liquid, like a biscuit in a cup of tea, but if someoneis into a situation, theyre suddenly placed into a new and unfamiliar setting before being removed again after a short .


If you have faith in something or someone, you have trust or confidence in them.

The phrasal verb to sort itself out, means to stop being a problem without having to do anything.

The adjective full-fledged means completely developed.


And finally, an either-or is a situation where only a choice two options is possible, with no third alternative.


And that brings us to the end of this . Bye for now!


Bye bye!



created with the online Cloze Test Creator © 2009 Lucy Georges


Chưa có bình luận