Celebrating linguistic diversity and multilingual education International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day, 21 February International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) General Conference in November 1999.

The International Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

UNESCO emphasizes that, “languages are the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage. All moves to promote the dissemination of mother tongues will serve not only to encourage linguistic diversity and multilingual education but also to develop fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions throughout the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.”

UNESCO’s website says “The world’s nearly 6,000 languages are celebrated on International Mother Language Day, aimed at promoting linguistic diversity
and multilingual education.”

In situations where linguistic based civil strife has dominated the lives, preservation education in mother language face ethnicity related challenges in their own places of birth. Lack of learning facilities and natural disasters too are causing disruption of early childhood education are becoming a norm in vulnerable communities around the world.

International Mother Language Day enables limelight on these situations and events are planned and carried out on improving the conditions in many communities. They could be as little as the launch of a small multi language section in local library; or address the plight of children globally, facing difficulties to access their mother language based aspect in every moment of their child hood – schooling years.

Delivery of Mother Languages through internet in many more places as possible getting promoted is an ideal way to mark the day. Every program in multi ethnic countries priding themselves as beacon of multiculturalism and diversity, utilized to the fullest available opportunities is also another way to realize this goal of language preservation along with rest of the world on Feb 21.

International Mother Language Day originated as the international recognition of Language Movement Day, which has been commemorated in Bangladesh since 1952, when a number of University of Dhaka students were killed by the Pakistani police and army in Dhaka during Bengali Language Movement protests on the imposition of Urudu language in the then East Pakistan.

In Bangladesh (in 2011) 150th birth anniversary of Nobel Laureate – Bengali Poet Rabindranath Tagore is being observed on a grand scale on Feb 21st. Bengali is the National language of Bangladesh and it is the second most spoken language in India. As a nation born out of the 20th century (1951-1952) Bengali Language Movement, Bangladesh takes pride in the observation of UNESCO declared Mother Language Day on Feb
21st.

Last year among other events worldwide, the village of Kovacica in the Republic of Serbia where national minorities of Slovaks, Romanians, Roma, Hungarians, Ruthenians and Croats live alongside Serbs celebrated the day with roundtables and discussions. On February 21, 2010 one lesson in every school in Serbia was dedicated to mother languages.

In this background and in an increasingly inter-connected globalized world, International Mother Language becomes an important day of observation and celebration. It is the duty of those striving for the betterment of humanity and reaps the fruits of diversity – contribute towards alleviating the mother language based educational difficulties faced by children, especially in their places of birth itself.

The Monsoon Journal joins in the marking of the International Mother Language Day, on 21 February. (Editorial appearing in The Monsoon Journal-February 2011 Edition, reproduced to mark the International Mother Language Day, today – February 21, 2013)
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“In this age of new technologies, books remain precious instruments, easy to handle, sturdy and practical for sharing knowledge, mutual understanding and opening the world to all. Books are the pillars of knowledge societies and essential for promoting freedom of expression and education for all.” – Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO