Primary Language v. Lengua Materna

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Vocabulary / Vocabulario Español-Inglés' started by Itzpapalotl, Sep 3, 2008.

  1. Itzpapalotl New Member

    I've seen in several forums that primary language was translated to lengua materna. I'm currently translating an application for parents seeking entrance for their children into gifted programs. There is a portion of the application that is for gifted programs designed specifically for English Language Learners whose primary language is Spanish. I want to avoid parents applying for these programs when their children ARE NOT primarily Spanish speaking. I have parents applying for the program when they feel their children know "a little" Spanish.

    If the phrase is:
    Student's primary language must be Spanish.

    and the translation is:
    Español tiene que ser la lengua materna del estudiante.

    My questions are: Is it possible that someone will read lengua materna and will interpret this as the first language the child learned and not necessarily the child's primary language currently? Would saying idioma primario or something else send a clearer message as to what we are looking for (that the child's dominant language should be Spanish)?

  2. coquis14

    coquis14 Senior Member

    Entre Macrilandia/Chamamélandia
    Español ,Argentina
    "Lengua materna" sounds good to me and I don't see any problem of intrepretation.If you aren't convinced yet , I can suggest you a few different frases:"Español debe ser la lengua nativa del estudiante" , "El estudiante debe hablar español como primera lengua"
  3. patr1c1a Member

    "Lengua materna" would be the language someone learnt from birth, so I think that's the meaning you're looking for. To me, "idioma primario" or "lengua primaria" aren't that clearly interpreted, as they might lead to confusion.
  4. loladamore

    loladamore Senior Member

    Zacatecas, México
    English UK
    You can say lengua primaria if you're talking about bilingualism or plurilingualism, contexts where lengua materna might be misleading or even meaningless.
  5. Mario Poe New Member


    Me parece que "Lengua Materna" es la mejor opción si quieres dejar en claro que el idioma nativo del estudiante debe ser español. Este concepto se asemeja al de "native speaker", y es mucho más clarificador que "first language", haciendo un paralelo con los conceptos anglo.

    Eso si, te acosnsejaría cambiar la frase por:

    La lengua materna del estudiante debe ser el español.


    El español debe ser la lengua materna del estudiante.
  6. loladamore

    loladamore Senior Member

    Zacatecas, México
    English UK
    If you want to be particularly careful, you could say lengua de uso predominante. Some Spanish speakers may, for cultural reasons, consider that their lengua materna is, say, Zapoteco or Nahuatl, but accept that Spanish is their lengua de uso predominante.
    But maybe I'm just picky.
  7. danielfranco

    danielfranco Senior Member

    Lola raises a valid point: the socioeconomic background here in Texas may lead to the belief that the "lengua materna" is the language spoken in the first infancy, which is not spoken at all in the present time. For example, there are children who are first-generation Americans and their parents spoke Spanish to them when they were little tykes. The actual situation ten years later could be that those children do not speak Spanish anymore, even in their home. It is a very common situation.

    So, I would recommend something like "idioma cotidiano", or "de uso predominante". Even "idioma principal" would serve.

    I ask this question on a daily basis, here, at work. And, it is important to consider the context: Itzpapalotl seems to be based in the USA.

  8. cirrus

    cirrus Senior Member

    UK English
    Primary language sounds a little odd to my British ears. In education here in London we would be more likely to say home language or community language.

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