International Mother Language Day-February 21st

By the time you read this article, International Mother Language Day may have or may not have already come and gone, but in case you didn’t even realize it was a day to celebrate, let me enlighten you!

Mother languages in a multilingual approach are essential components of quality education, which is itself the foundation for empowering women and men and their societies.  ~unesco.org

When an ESOL Coordinator friend of mine sent out an e-mail heralding International Mother Language Day, I admittedly thought it was something that proclaimed the language of mothers such as, “Eat your peas,” or “Wash behind your ears.”  But upon investigation, I have come to find out that it is one of the least known, yet most uniquely celebrated day around the world.

International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. ~un.org

International Mother Language Day has been observed in correspondence to the date in 1952 when students from the University of Dhaka, Jagannah University and Dhaka Medical College were demonstrating for the recognition of their own national language of East Pakistan. Four students were shot dead by police in Bangladesh. Every year when the anniversary comes around, people lay flowers at the martyr’s monument, enjoy festive parties and celebrate the Bangladesh culture and Bengali language.

UNESCO and UN agencies encourage people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language while learning and using more than one language. ” ~timeanddate.com

In line with Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education of the 2030 Agenda, this year’s theme emphasizes the importance of appropriate mother tongues language instruction in the early years of education. It facilitates access to education and raises the quality of education and learning achievement by putting an emphasis on understanding and creativity. It is itself the foundation for empowering women and men in their area of the world, “We must recognize and nurture this power, in order to leave no one behind, to craft a more just and sustainable future for all” (unesco.org).

Many of us would not think that sustaining a language could be so powerful as to sustain entire societies, yet that is exactly what it does. “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.org).

It seems that saving all the languages of the world from the possibility of extinction is a valuable movement, and is something that many of us would hardly even think about. The next time February 21st comes around, pay homage to something as amazing as International Mother Language Day; the most uniquely celebrated day around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

I teach English in Kansas.

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