INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY
Every year on February 21st, International Mother Language Day draw awareness for linguistic and cultural diversity. It’s also a day to promote multilingualism.
A mother language is the first language that someone speaks. A person’s mother language helps to define a person’s identity. Some think of their mother language as a thing of great beauty. This is especially true if they live in an area where their mother language is not spoken. For them, their mother language is a way to stay connected to their homeland and their culture. Unfortunately, a mother language disappears every two weeks. When this happens, an entire cultural heritage disappears along with it.
Out of the 6,000 languages in the world, 43 percent of them are endangered. These endangered languages will become extinct in the future. Languages become endangered for several reasons. Some languages simply get replaced by ones more widely spoken. Other languages aren’t being learned by new generations of children. There are dozens of languages today that have only one native speaker still living. When that person dies, their language will also die.
The most endangered languages are spoken by minority communities, including:
- Tribes of Papua New Guinea
- Aboriginal peoples of Australia
- Native peoples of the Americas
- Marginalized European peoples such as the Irish and the Basques
In North America, there were once hundreds of different languages. Today, only about 194 languages remain. Because so many languages are dying, linguists are trying to learn as much about them as possible. Even if the language disappears, the knowledge of the language won’t disappear along with it. Learning about languages before they die is also essential for preserving the history of a culture.
HOW TO OBSERVE #InternationalMotherLanguageDay
Many people throughout the world celebrate their mother language on this day. Many awards, including the Linguapax Prize and the Ekushey Heritage Award, are given to those who have excelled in language preservation and the promotion of multilingualism. UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, also holds a special event each year. Many schools take part in the day. Teachers encourage students to write something in their mother language, or they organize cultural events that celebrate a diverse range of languages.
- Research your ancestor’s mother language.
- Commit to learning an endangered language.
- Learn to say basic words, such as hello or thank you in different languages.
- Read about multilingual celebrities, including Natalie Portman, Jodie Foster, Viggo Mortensen, and Penelope Cruz.
- Research endangered languages and what is being done to preserve them.
- Visit the National Day Calendar Classroom for even more ways to explore International Mother Language Day.
Share this day on social media with #InternationalMotherLanguageDay
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY HISTORY
In November of 1999, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed International Mother Language Day. Bangladesh inspired the day. February 21st, 1952 marks the date when the Bangalis fought for their language to become recognized. On February 29th, 1952, Bengali became the second official language of Pakistan.