International Mother Language Day 2023: Date, Theme, History, Significance, Key Facts & More
International Mother Language Day 2023: It is celebrated on 21 February to spread awareness of linguistic, and cultural diversity, and to promote multilingualism. India is home to hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects which make its linguistic and cultural diversity the most unique in the world. Language is not only a means of communication but it also represents a diverse cultural and intellectual heritage.
More than 6,700 languages are spoken worldwide but at least 40% are threatened with extinction.— UNESCO 🏛️ #Education #Sciences #Culture 🇺🇳 (@UNESCO) February 20, 2023
The classroom has a vital role to play in keeping them alive!@UNESCO is calling on countries to implement mother language-based education: https://t.co/8IndXt4Tsx #MotherLanguageDay pic.twitter.com/DvBEYzZZzl
It is celebrated due to the initiative of Bangladesh. On 21 February 1952 four students were killed while campaigning for the use of Bengali as their mother language officially in Bangladesh.
Let’s have a look at history.
International Mother Language Day 2023: History
In November 1999, the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) proclaimed International Mother Language Day (30C/62). The General Assembly of the UN welcomed the proclamation of the day in its resolution A/RES/56/262 of 2002.
In the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly A/RES/61/266 on 16 May, 2007 called Member States “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world". In fact with the same resolution, the General Assembly in 2008 proclaimed the International Year of Languages to encourage unity in diversity and global understanding through multilingualism and multiculturalism and named UNESCO to serve as the lead agency of the year.
No doubt this initiative increased awareness regarding problems related to languages and mobilise resources and partners to support the implementation of strategies and policies for language diversity and multilingualism in several parts of the world.
We can't ignore that language is fundamental to the communication of all kinds and communication plays an important role in making change and development in human society. Let us tell you that the International Year of Languages was created when linguistic diversity was increasingly threatened.
READ| International Translation Day
International Mother Language Day 2023: Theme
The 24th edition of International Mother Language Day will focus on the theme 'multilingual education - a necessity to transform education'.
The theme of International Mother Language Day 2022 is "Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities”.
The theme of International Mother Language Day 2020 was "Languages without borders". The theme focuses on cross-border languages and helps to preserve indigenous heritage.
International Mother Language Day 2023: Celebrations
UNESCO promotes this year’s theme “Using technology for multilingual learning: Challenges and opportunities” and discusses the potential role of technology to advance multilingual education and support the development of quality teaching and learning for all.
This year, the webinar focuses on two main themes namely;
- Teachers' role to be enhanced in promoting quality multilingual teaching and learning.
- Reflecting on technologies and their potential to support multilingual teaching and learning.
UNESCO organizes several events on this day and encourages people to maintain their knowledge of their mother language and learn the use of more than one language. Several policies are also announced by governments and non-governmental organizations to promote the learning of language and support. Various activities are also organized in schools and colleges to celebrate the diversity of languages.
Linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened because several languages are disappearing. According to UNESCO, 40 percent population of the world does not have access to an education in a language they speak or understand. Therefore, it is necessary to make progress in mother tongue-based multilingual education with the need for understanding its importance.
Wishes and Greetings for International Mother Language Day 2023
History: About 1952 Bengali Language Movement, Bangladesh
When India gained independence from British rule, the subcontinent of India was divided into a separate Muslim state (East Pakistan and West Pakistan) and a separate Hindu state (India). There was a cultural and lingual conflict between East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (Today Pakistan).
In 1948, the government of Pakistan declared Urdu as the national language and due to it, the tensions grew more. This decision of the government sparked several violent protests amongst the Bengali-speaking majority in East Pakistan. Some students of the University of Dhaka organized a protest with some activists on 21 February 1952. Later that day, the police opened fire at the students, protesters, and four students of the university who were killed. The martyrdom of these students who fought for the Bengali language to be used as their mother language officially is remembered on International Mother Language Day.
Finally on 29 February 1956, Bengali was recognized as the second official language of Pakistan. In 1971, East Pakistan became an independent country namely Bangladesh, and Bengali became its official language.
As discussed above the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1999 declared International Mother Language Day and on 21st February 2000, the first International Mother language Day was observed.
How is UNESCO celebrating International Mother Language day this year?
Before International Mother Language Day, Fernand de Varennes, the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, made a statement. He declared what is below:
“Languages are essential tools to communicate and share knowledge, memory, and history, but they are also key to full and equal participation. One of the most effective ways of empowering minorities and indigenous peoples is to guarantee the use of their language in education particularly as a medium of instruction as long as it is practical and to provide public services and employment opportunities in these languages.
Language rights are also important human rights matters for both minorities and indigenous peoples. Special Rapporteurs, including my own mandate, have already been critical of the reduction, and in some cases exclusion, of education in minority and indigenous languages which are discriminatory and thinly disguised efforts to assimilate minorities and indigenous peoples.
Rather than reducing or even eliminating the use of minority and indigenous languages in education, States should invest in the development of teaching materials, the training of teachers, and the promotion of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction – where feasible – to ensure that minority and indigenous children are provided with the literacy and numeracy skills that will be most useful in learning other languages, including official languages. This is the most effective way of guaranteeing equality and non-discrimination with respect to international law.
In celebrating the richness and beauty of the global linguistic tapestry, it is essential to move away from new forms of nationalist majoritarianism that assume that societies and states should have only one language to the exclusion of all others. This is inconsistent with inclusive societies that are respectful of the human rights of linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. International Mother Language Day and the International Decade of Indigenous Languages are opportunities to promote and celebrate the world’s linguistic and cultural diversity and to fully recognize and protect equally the human rights of minorities and indigenous peoples and their languages.”