How will you be celebrating International Mother Language Day?

06/02/2012 | Rebecca Twose

It’s International Mother Language Day on 21 February – what have you got planned to celebrate this special day?

International Mother Language Day was proclaimed by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in November 1999 (30C/62).

On 16 May 2009, the United Nations General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/61/266 called upon Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”. By the same resolution, the General Assembly proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multilingualism and multiculturalism.

International Mother Language Day has been observed every year since February 2000 to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The date represents the day in 1952 when students demonstrating for recognition of their language, Bangla, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan, were shot and killed by police in Dhaka, the capital of what is now Bangladesh.

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.

Let us know what you will be doing on the day by posting your comments below!

Image from the UN

2 Replies to “How will you be celebrating International Mother Language Day?”

  1. There’s a simplistic view of cleeros among many socio-linguists: that they can only form under certain conditions—i.e., ~16th-19th century colonial contexts. Then they see a lot of aspects of contact linguistics from that same perspective. The fact is, contact situations and their social aspects come in all different shapes and sizes, from any period. And the shapes of their social and linguistic outcomes are still largely unpredictable.I saw somewhere recently (in a movie? or perhaps in a chapter of some book) a statement much more resembling yours, from another serious linguist (maybe just not with as big a name as John McWhorter). I think the general context was explaining why linguists are / should be rushing to document so many languages. I’ve seen other arguments in serious socio-linguistic works against loss of local languages to larger, more cosmopolitan languages, saying things about how there’s often enough little improvement in conditions even when a whole society becomes nearly bilingual, and how a couple generations after complete loss of the language, the people who would’ve otherwise been speaking it regret having lost it.I also find McWhorter’s statement very ethno-centric. Not all indigenous populations mistreat women, and lack of access to modern medicine and technology doesn’t always do a society any good; for a traditional way of life, traditional medicine and technology usually do a decent enough job (though of course, there are gaps in any society’s knowledge of medicine).Also, as a last note, in many cases it’s not English killing off smaller languages, but larger local languages, even if they’re not super-power languages (i.e., not just languages like Spanish, Russian, and Swahili, but even languages like Assamese).

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