International Mother Language Day

International Mother Language Day (IMLD): Languages without borders

February 21, 2020

Mother language plays a huge role in a child’s overall learning and development. Observed around the world on February 21, International Mother Language Day (IMLD) celebrate our ethnic and linguistic diversities and promote multilingual education. International Mother Language Day (IMLD) was approved by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on November 17, 1999. 

The idea to celebrate was the initiative of Bangladesh. International Mother Language Day has been observed annually since 2000 across the globe.

The UN’s resolution was suggested by a Bengali, Rafiqul Islam, asking to take a step for saving the world’s languages from extinction by way of declaring an International Mother Language Day. Rafiq had proposed the date as 21 February to commemorate the 1952 killings in Dhaka during the Bengali language movement in Bangladesh.

The theme each year for this day is chosen by the UNESCO, who sponsors related events at its Paris headquarters. The theme for this year is: Languages without borders

On this occasion, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, said, “By bringing their speakers closer together, by allowing them to flourish in a shared context, mother tongues generate social inclusion, innovation and imagination. They also breathe life into cultural diversity and serve as instruments of peace.” 

On this occasion, let’s acquaint ourselves with some facts about languages:

  • Mandarin/Chinese language is considered one of the important languages across the globe. Approximately 1,197,000,000 people speak Chinese, of which 873,000 million speak Mandarin.
  • Hindi is the most spoken language in India. According to the 2011 census, the number of people who speak Hindi as mother tongue has increased in 2011 as compared to the 2001 census. In 2001, 41.03 percent of the people spoke Hindi, while in 2011 it is increased to 43.63 percent.
  • The second most spoken language is Bengali, which is spoken by 8.03 percent of the total population.
  • Marathi is India’s third most spoken language followed by Telegu.
  • Spanish is the official language of over 21 countries spoken by over 530,000,000 speakers across the world and is the second most commonly spoken language after Mandarin/Chinese.
  • German is the third most popular foreign language taught worldwide and the second most popular in Europe and Japan, after English. German has between 89 to 110 million native speakers.
  • Spoken by approximately 230 million people, Portuguese is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world.
  • Russian is spoken by over 300 million people around the world and is the largest native language in Europe.
  • Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world with more than 300 million speakers speak it as their native language and is spoken in 26 countries.
  • Korean language is spoken by more than 75 million people — 48 million in South Korea, 24 million in North Korea, around 2 million in China, and over 1 million in USA and 500,000 in Japan.
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