International Mother Language Day was an initiative of Bangladesh that was approved at the 1999 UNESCO General Conference. It is celebrated annually on 21st February to promote multilingualism and awareness of cultural and linguistic diversity. The date also represents the day of February 21st, 1952 where four students was killed because of language controversy in Bangladesh.
As stated by UNESCO, “when languages fade, so does the world's rich tapestry of cultural diversity. Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression—valuable resources for ensuring a better future, are also lost”. Language is the most powerful manifestation of culture and mother language is the signature of one’s culture, thus it needs to be preserved whilst continuously learning about the mother tongue diversity.
To fully reap the benefits of the International Mother Language Day celebration, teachers can conduct classroom activities by letting their students choose between 5-10 words each based on their own mother tongues and play the guessing game with the rest of the classroom. Other than that, we can also promote and raise awareness of the importance of mother language on our social medias, learn about the variety of languages spoken in our community, learn about the world’s endangered languages and why preserving them matter.
The theme of the 2023 International Mother Language Day, “Multilingual education – a necessity to transform education in a multilingual world” aligns with recommendations made during the Transforming Education Summit, where an emphasis was also placed on Indigenous people’s education and languages.
Multilingualism contributes to the development of inclusive societies that allow multiple cultures, worldviews and knowledge systems to coexist and cross-fertilize.