What is this? How can this term be used meaningfully? Similarly, ESL (English as a Second Language).
Are you confused? Does it seem self-explanatory to you?
Because it does not to me. I am perplexed by it. I seem to defy explanation. Hoorah! Wait… no.
I was born in Seoul, and the first language I learned was Korean. I started learning English when I was in preschool and I moved to NZ when I was 8.
Does it still seem straightforward to you? Well, there is more to this tragi-comedy than meets the eye.
As you might be able to discern if you look very carefully, I can speak English competently. Indeed, I enjoy playing with English. I am a book nerd. I write. Whatever. Besides, I cannot speak Korean. *GASP!* I know, it is terrible. I really did not have any Korean friends growing up in NZ, and I prefer BBC (Doctor Who coming back this weekend, y’all!) to Korean soap. I even love anime, which I watch with English subtitles and I can understand some Japanese having studied it in high school and university. So of out of all 3 languages in my arsenal, Korean is my weakest.
I doubt that I am the only person in the world to be this way. My mother tongue is, technically, Korean, but my language of choice and love is English, with a spicy serving of Japanese as a side dish.
I have problems with people using the terms mother tongue and ESL philosophically, but more saliently, because these terms are often used for employment. I cannot apply for some jobs (e.g. English tutor) because English is my second language. I need not apply, the ad tells me. I certainly cannot apply for jobs that require me to communicate in Korean (e.g. waiting tables at a Korean restaurant). I need not apply, the ad implies.
Someone please give me a job!!!1