International Mother Language Day comes on February 21 of every year. It is a day to promote the awareness of linguistic-cultural diversity and multilingualism. Also, the day remembers the killing of four students in Bangladesh on February 21, 1952, because they campaigned to use their mother language (Bengali) officially. The day is also known as Language Movement Day or Language Revolution Day, or Bengali Language Movement Day in Bangladesh. Hence it is a day to promote the awareness of language and cultural diversity across the world.
“If you talk to a man in a language that he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela
History of International Mother Language Day
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) announced International Mother Language Day in 1999 to celebrate cultural diversity and to commemorate the “Language Martyr” students of Bangladesh in 1952. The four students are honored by the encouragement of multiculturalism and the improvement of protective measures for endangered languages. It is very hard to imagine the difficulties faced by students who are all ordered to learn a foreign language without linguistic inclusion, and there is no equal access to education. On this day, UNESCO and UN agencies will participate in events to promote language and cultural diversity. They will encourage people to maintain their knowledge of the mother language while learning and using more than one language. Policies will be adopted by Governmental and Non-governmental agencies to improve language learning and support.
Timeline of International Mother Language Day
- 1952 – The Foundation of International Mother Language Day.
- 1999 – UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) announced 21 February as International Mother Language Day.
- 2000 – The Inaugural celebration of Mother Language Day.
- 2001 – The Second annual celebration of International Mother Language Day.
- 2002 – Linguistic-diversity theme, with 3,000 endangered languages (slogan: In the galaxy of languages, every word is a star.)
- 2003 – Fourth Annual Celebration of Mother Language Day.
- 2004 – The introduction of the Children-learning theme. UNESCO included a unique exhibition of children’s exercise books from around the world, illustrating the process of how children can learn and master the use of written literacy skills in the classrooms.
- 2005 – Braille and sign languages.
- 2006 – Languages and cyberspace.
- 2007 – The introduction of Multilingual Education.
- 2008 – International Year of Languages.
- 2009 – Tenth annual celebration of International Mother Language Day.
- 2010 – International Year for Rapprochement of Cultures.
- 2011 – Information and communication technologies.
- 2012 – Mother tongue instruction and inclusive education.
- 2013 – Books for mother tongue education were introduced.
- 2014 – Local languages for Global Citizenship: Spotlight on Science.
- 2015 – Inclusion in and through education: language counts (with an event in Paris).
- 2016 – Quality education, language(s) of instruction, and learning outcomes.
- 2017 – Sustainable futures via multilingual education.
- 2018 – Our languages, our assets.
- 2019 – Indigenous languages matter for development, peacebuilding, and reconciliation.
- 2020 – Languages without borders.
- 2021 – Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society
- 2022 – Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities.
- 2023 – Multilingual education – a necessity to transform education.
Other Celebrations on February 21
February 21 is also celebrated as
How to Celebrate the Day
Celebrate the day by conducting events to promote the hearing of all voices and to display social cohesion, cultural awareness, and tolerance. Encourage others to learn about the history of their mother language and the benefits of using more than one language. Governments and non-governmental organizations around the world will use this day to announce policies to encourage language learning. Post pictures and share your thoughts on social media about the day by using the hashtag #MotherLanguageDay.
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