The 21st of February is International Mother Language Day. This officially recognized day celebrates language diversity around the world. The objective of the day is to “promote linguistic diversity and multilingual education and to develop a fuller awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.” (UNESCO website).
The day was launched at the General Conference of UNESCO in 1999. UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The reason the day is held on 21st February is that the date represents the day in 1952 when “language martyr” students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of Pakistan, were shot and killed by Police in Dhaka. UNESCO highlights the importance of mother tongue as part of the right to education and encourages member states to promote education in the mother tongue.
“It is estimated that nearly half of the (approximately) 6,000 languages spoken in the world could die out by the end of the century, with 96% of these languages spoken by 4% of the world’s population.” — UNESCO Director General, Irina Bokova.
International Mother Language Day events will be taking place all over the world, festivals celebrating the hearing of all voices, regardless of language, to promote cultural awareness and tolerance.
As the late Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
Welocalize wishes you a very Happy International Mother Language Day!