You might not know this but the 21st of February is International Mother Language Day and it’s been celebrated since 1999. But what is it for? Have a read and you’ll find out some fascinating facts about February’s special International Mother Language Day in CLIC.
Let’s start with the ‘whys’:
Why the date? Throughout history languages have been used, abused and weaponised as tools in cultural battles. The date selected for International Mother Language Day commemorates the deaths of 4 young students that took place in 1952 in Dhaka in Bangladesh at a tricky moment in history where the decision was being made to use Urdu rather than Bengali/Bangla as the dominant language. It was Bangladesh itself that encouraged this initiative in 1999. So, from its inception, this day is about remembering and not forgetting, improving not ignoring, about recognising and not dominating.
Why does it matter if a language disappears? According to UNESCO ‘at least 43% of the estimated 6000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.’ This means that they are close to disappearance as they are not part of the education or governmental language and are not used to trade or negotiate. When a language disappears we lose memories, culture, context. We lose parts of ourselves and our heritage on the planet.
Now the ‘whats’:
What can we do to help? At the moment UNESCO say that 40% of the planet cannot get access to education in their mother language. This creates a barrier to the acquisition of knowledge. And in today’s fast-paced economic climate, knowledge is power. So, must consider a more varied approach to languages across the globe, encourage awareness and respect rather than monolingualism and cultural dominance.
What about the web? Have you ever considered how few languages are actually represented digitally? UNESCO points out that ‘Increasingly, information and knowledge are key determinants of wealth creation, social transformation and human development. Language is a primary vector for communicating information and knowledge, thus the opportunity to use one’s language on the Internet will determine the extent to which one can participate in emerging knowledge societies.’ Without a wider variety of languages represented online, we are going to ultimately reduce our capacity as a species on earth, our innovation and our ideas sharing. Doesn’t that worry you?
Finally the ‘Hows’:
How can we help? One thing we can all do is learn. Discover new languages. Open our minds and foster a wider community of languages. Never lose our curiosity and never forget that minority languages have a right to be represented too.
How can I find out more? If you’re interested in learning Chinese, English, French, German, Portugese or Spanish, you can get in touch with us here at CLIC International House Sevilla: https://clic.es
If you want to find out more about International Mother Language Day, read here: https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/motherlanguageday
Happy International Mother Languages Day from Clic International House Sevilla.