“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” –Nelson Mandela-
International Mother Language Day is observed worldwide on the 21st of February each year to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and to advocate for multilingualism. This day was first announced to be the International Mother Language Day by UNESCO on the 17th of November 1999 and it has been observed throughout the world since the 21st of February 2000. The idea to celebrate this day was an initiative of Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the 21st of February is the anniversary of the day when the people of Bangladesh fought for recognition for the Bangla language.
Languages are of vital importance for people as it helps to express feelings and thoughts. Although all species have their own ways of communicating, humans are the only ones with a mastered cognitive language communication and language is what makes us human. They strengthen co-operation and quality education for all, as well as help to build inclusive societies and to aid sustainable development.
There are about 6,500 languages in the world, but a language disappears and dies every two weeks. Celebrating International Mother Language Day raises awareness about the importance of preserving indigenous and local languages and this worldwide celebration encourages us all to be proud of our own mother languages. So, what can you do to celebrate International Mother Language Day? Here are a number of little things you can do to honour this day;
- Enjoy a movie in your own language and in a language other than your own.
- Listen to a radio channel hosted in your mother tongue, subscribe to a radio channel in another language and listen to them regularly.
- Sing songs of different languages and look into the meaning of the lyrics.
- Spread a message sharing a greeting or a joke in your mother language and be social.
- Play fun games like guessing food items in different languages, identifying the meanings of words in different languages and enjoy the time to increase the vocabulary on another language.
Everyone has the right to use their own mother language, and to keep the memories, traditions and ways of thinking that their language represents. And this is what International Mother Language Day is all about.
Also remember that, even though there are hundreds of languages in the world, a simple smile could speak them all.