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IMLD 2021: Multilingualism as a way towards inclusion

Losing the native language from a country is a phenomenon called first language attrition, this became common as people moved around the world. Language is one the most important tools we have as human beings and we have to preserve our mother language everywhere we go. Given the importance this issue has, UNESCO made it an international day worth being celebrated.

International Mother Language Day is celebrated every year on the 21st of February. The main purpose of celebrating this day is to promote the awareness of language and cultural diversity all across the world. It was first announced by UNESCO on November 17, 1999. Since then, it has become a yearly tradition. 

The date commemorates the 21st February 1952, when four young students were killed in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, because of the Bengali and Urdu language controversy. Languages are the most powerful way to preserve and develop culture and to promote it all across the world. Because of this unfortunate incident, International Mother Language Day is celebrated globally, while it is a public holiday in Bangladesh.

On International Mother Language Day UNESCO and other UN agencies take part in events to promote cultural and linguistic diversity all around the world. They appreciate and encourage people to be knowledgeable about their mother language and provide them with awareness regarding the promotion of their language and culture towards other countries. 

“Languages, with their complex implications for identity, communication, social integration, education, and development, are of strategic importance for people and the planet. Yet, due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat of disappearing altogether. 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.

Every two weeks a language disappears taking with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. At least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world. Multilingual and multicultural societies exist through their languages which transmit and sustainably preserve traditional knowledge and cultures.” says the UN. 

The theme of the 2021 International Mother Language Day, “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society,” recognizes that languages and multilingualism can advance inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals focus on leaving no one behind. UNESCO believes education, based on the first language or mother tongue, must begin from the early years as early childhood care and education is the foundation of learning.

This day is celebrated in memory of the four students who were killed while fighting for their mother language and is celebrated to tell them that we will never forget their sacrifices.

Source: UNESCO, UN.org